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The Dead Will Inherit the Earth
A collection of short horror stories And dark poetry by Thom Olausson

Published by Lulu
www.deadtales.com/Thom Olausson PUBLISHER: Thom Olausson/ deadtales.com & Lulu
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ISBN:978-1-84799-347-2 CHIEF EDITOR: Deadtales.com/Thom Olausson WEBSITE: www.deadtales.com ART DIRECTORS: Thom Olausson/ Ditte Gade COVER DESIGN: Dead Sky By Thom Olausson/ Ditte Gade SECOND EDITION CONTACT ADDRESS: Otterdalsv. 4 /310 20/ knäred/ SWEDEN EMAIL: deadtales@hotmail.com ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY DEADTALES.COM/THOM OLAUSSON/ 2007

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I dedicate this book to my beloved mother, I love you mummy -Your son, Thom-2008-

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Contents
The Bogman’s Curse …….………..…………………………………………...page 6 A Christmas Tale
(originally published in Universe Pathways English edition issue 5/2007)

……………………………..………................................page 9 The Crooked Cross …………………………………………..........................page 36 Circus Comes to Town
(Originally appeared in the Lightning Journal winter issue/2007)

…………………………………………………………..page 60 The Old Campsite …………………………………………..........................page 76 The Punishment Shall Fit The Crime
(Originally appeared in the Greek version of Universe Pathways 11th edition 2008)

………………………………………………..................page 95 Sleep Sweet Child of Mina ………………………………………………………...page 104 ...The End ……………………………………….…………...........page 106 Trapped Soul ……………………………………………………...….page 117 Psychopath ……………...……………………………………….…page 118 Lord High Executioner’s Prayer …………........................................................................page 122 Darkness …………………………………………………………page 123 Train of Consequences ………………………………………………….……page 136 The end of Days ……………………………………………………….page 143

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In memoriam of the Reaper …………………………………………………………page 144 Future relic of the past ………………………………………………………..page 151 Until death do us part
(originally published by screams of terror/2006)

…………………………………………………………page 156 Executioner’s Ground
(excerpt from the upcoming novel)

………………………………………………...……….page 162

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The Bogman’s curse

From the murky depths of the bog he’s watching His eyes are covered by a milky white membrane His skin is ancient and in places it is peeling Within his rotten skull rests his cold and dead brain The Bogman’s heart is still and ice cold His long black hair is floating around his head His cloak is moldy and his fate is untold Yet he is the prince in this bog of the dead In an act of sacrifice they slit his throat They strangled his corpse and drowned his spirit They left him behind with no gold for the Ferryman’s boat He wants revenge and freedom and will kill for it Below the still surface of the bog he is lurking His bony hands ready to drag the innocent down to him He feels no remorse and truly despises the living As he takes their lives his way of killing is grim

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His undead corpse breaks the surface in the dead of night The Bogman leaves his watery grave when it is dark and still He searches the forest for victims in the pale moon light His milky white eyes glimmer as he move in for the kill A horrible scream rips the silent and peaceful night apart The Bogman chuckles and shows his sinister grin Sounds of struggle and fear his dreaded and evil art Another poor soul has been cleansed of mortal sin Into the murky depths the lost soul now must travel The Bogman’s cold whisper lingers in the forest -join me in death and I the truth will unravel There is no peace for the undead, in eternal twilight you shall rest Yet still he is alone with only dead bodies for company While he is chained to the bog all others are free During the day when the water is still he rests uneasy Beneath the surface he lurks, waiting for the one that holds the key

Until he’s freed from his moist prison he shall continue to kill
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All living shall pay for his lonely existence in purgatory Those that sacrificed him are long dead and never will So until he is freed he will haunt the bog for eternity From the dark depths of the bog he’s watching His eyes are dead and milky white yet still he can see His cursed corpse rests uneasy and is slowly rotting With a raspy dead voice he whispers: my vengeance is never free…

A Christmas Tale
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“It’s a fine time, a prime time To rock the night away Jingle bell time is a swell time To go riding in a one horse sleigh”
Jingle bell rock by: Bobby Helms

1 All Michael Fowles had wanted to find out about the new owner of the old mansion was if he celebrated Christmas like the rest of the villagers. The new owner’s name was Mr. Strigioul. He was European and the rumour said that he was a Muslim and therefore didn’t celebrate Christmas. Michael found this strange. Mr. Strigioul had started renovating the old mansion during Halloween. Originally it had been built by a Polish man right after the Second World War. The mansion certainly didn’t fit in the small village and stuck out like a man with a kick-sledge sticking out from his behind. All the other houses were ordinary and didn’t look as if they were built for housing kings or queens. The Polish man who had built the mansion had been named Fenge Smejole. He had told everybody that he was Jewish. Fenge also claimed to have escaped the horrors of the Nazis. He had told everybody that he had been in hell and now deserved to live like a king as a reward. To this day people still had problems believing that old man Smejole actually had been in, what he’d called it, hell.
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Those who still remembered him said that he had had the face of an angel. There had been no trace of the horror he claimed to have experienced in that face. As a matter of fact, in the beginning there had even been some rumours of Fenge Smejole being a wanted Nazi. That he had been a part of the hell he claimed to have visited, rather than a victim. But when Fenge Smejole turned out to be an outstanding doctor the rumours had died out. He became the first real doctor in the village. The years went by and old man Smejole retired. He stayed alone in the mansion with only the bottle for company. Toward the end, he could be seen marching drunken back and forth in front of his huge mansion, screaming at the top of his voice: ‘GIVE ME ALL PREGNANT WOMEN AND I WILL MAKE SURE THEY WON’T COME TO ANY HARM!’ One cold winter morning he had been found dead on the stone stairs that led up to the mansion, frozen to the core. He had been sitting there, holding an empty bottle of brandy, staring into eternity with a spatula sticking out of his mouth like a bizarre wooden imitation of a tongue. The villagers had been forced to thaw him out before being able to fit him inside his coffin. As it had been in the middle of the winter, he had been kept inside a wooden shed by the graveyard until spring arrived so that they would be able to bury him. It was the way it was done in the old days, in the time before excavators became a common sight on graveyards. Spring had arrived, as it always does, and Fenge Smejole had finally been buried.

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His mansion fell into disrepair during the years that followed. It developed a rumor as a haunted house and no one wanted to live there as a result. It was said that Fenge’s restless spirit still marched drunken through the empty house screaming at the top of his voice. So the mansion fell into disrepair but time wasn’t the only thing responsible for it. The youth of the village had gone there on one dare after another during the years that had followed. They were the ones that had smashed all the windows. They still did as far as Michael knew, at least before the new tenant had moved in that was. Michael had been in there himself on more than one occasion and he had smashed windows as well. He had never seen any proof of any ghosts whatsoever though. He admitted that the house was eerie, with wallpaper peeling from the walls in the rooms and the musty smell of rotting wood and mould. He could see someone getting lost in there while it was dark. The mansion was huge. And if the wind was blowing it could sometimes produce an eerie howl through the broken windowpanes and that could scare the living daylight out of most people. If you added panic into the mix, well then… Now it had been fixed up and the derelict building was once more a mansion, restored to its original glory. There was nothing scary about it anymore.

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Michael Fowles was forty-two years old and the only law man in the village. He had joined the police academy at the age of twenty-three after having served his time in the army. When the training was finished he had worked in the city for nine years. He had started out as a rookie doing traffic and had ended up as a homicide detective working the graveyard-shift, before returning to the place where he grew up. Michael had both loved and hated working in the city. He had loved solving crimes and getting the bad guys (and girls) behind bars, but he had hated the fact that the city had seemed to be vibrating of evil and death in every fibre of its neon covered body. So when he had been offered the job as the new chief of police in the village since the old one, Stefan Schuntz, was retiring, he had gladly accepted. Michael had his station in an old house that he shared with the captain of the fire brigade: himself! Yes, he was not only the chief of police but also in charge of the fire brigade. He had six volunteers at his disposal and a fire engine from the early sixties that always seemed to overheat as soon as it started. It was slow and referred to as the red turtle by the firefighters. It was all they had and Michael reasoned that it was better than nothing at all. You see, Schuntz had made himself unpopular with the politicians. Since they were in charge of the money that the village should receive, the village only got the lowest budget allowed every year. The people in the village used to make jokes about it and said that the budget was more fit to keep the people up in the graveyard happy than the ones that was alive. Michael
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agreed with them and hoped that the politicians soon would come to their senses. When he had started as the new chief of police, he had only had a mountain bike to get around the village with. When he had contacted the headquarters in the city, they had told him that that was all he needed as far as their research showed. When he had asked Schuntz about it he had told Michael about the fallout he had had with the politicians and that the budget probably would stay as it was until he was dead and buried. Michael hadn’t minded using the bike during spring or summer but it had been a nuisance during the cold autumn and the even colder winter. When Schuntz had died it turned out that, he had left the chief of police in the village all his money. He had written in his will that as he didn’t have any family in the village he rather left his money to the villagers than the fat politicians or his ungrateful relatives in the city. It had been more than welcome and Michael had used the money to buy a quad bike. The big machine had been a welcome change compared to the mountain-bike. The rest of the money had been spent on fixing up the house in which they had the fire and police department. They now had a working heating system and the fire brigade had new uniforms that weren’t falling apart at the seams like the old ones had. Two weeks after Michael had turned forty-two he found out that Fenge’s old mansion had been sold. Like the rest of the villagers, he had been surprised by the news. The house had been empty for so long that the villagers had started to think of it as “theirs”. There
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had even been talk of either tearing it down or fixing it up. In the end, nobody had wanted the mansion to be torn down as it was considered a vital part of village history. During a meeting, it had been decided that there was going to be a loan application sent to the bank so they could afford to renovate the derelict building. It never occurred to any of them that someone else owned the house. The loan application had never been sent as everybody had a silent agreement that the toll of time would take care of “their” haunted mansion. So when they found out that it had been sold everybody had been in a kind of chock. Michael had investigated the matter. He was dying from curiosity just like everyone else in the village. It turned out that a realtor in Denmark had bought the mansion in an auction when Fenge had died and had now sold it to a man from Eastern Europe. Michael had spoken to the realtor over the phone, a man named Henry Gade, who had told him that they had almost forgotten about the house as it had been for sale for such a long time. He also told Michael that the buyer, a wealthy painter, had contacted them unexpectedly and he had offered to buy the house immediately. Henry, the realtor had said yes, of course he could buy the old house. He had had no idea which house the caller had meant. After he had hung up, he had looked up the house in question, and when he saw it, he just couldn’t believe that anyone would want to buy it. As the house was in a remote corner of the world, they had neglected it from the beginning and more or less forgotten about it over the years.
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The realtor told Michael that the buyer’s name was Gustav Strigioul and that he had no idea of how the man had found out about the house, as they had no ad on the building anywhere. Still, the realtor was glad to have made a large profit with that old house. Michael had thanked Henry Gade for his help and had hung up. He had looked up the name Gustav Strigioul who had turned out clean as a whistle, not even a goddamn parking ticket had been issued in that name. Michael had been satisfied; if the man was wealthy, he might be the village’s new benefactor, which in turn meant more money. Not bad, not bad at all.

3. Michael had taken a stroll down the main street (hell, street was a too good name for the dirt road that it really was, in the winter it turned into a mud trail and in the summer a damn dust spreader) towards the old mansion. He had been amazed by all the commotion at the old mansion. A building company had put up four huge trailers and carpenters were scurrying about the old place. The name of the building company had been foreign. Later he had found out that the company was Romanian, which was strange. Why would you hire a company from another country when there were builders closer to the village? They did have one in the village but he was an old drunk. He had problems doing any proper work as he was sloshed most of the time, but there were others not far from the village. Like everyone else in the village Michael thought the
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new owner was an eccentric, old fart that had too much money to spend. All the men had been built like bulldozers and they had had light-brown skin. When Michael had come down there they had been unloading a huge truck with timber and he had noticed that even the truck had had foreign plates. In front of the house, there stood a large, blue container. It had seemed to be emptying itself as no one in the village neither had seen nor heard any trucks collecting it; still it was empty each morning. Anyway, the Romanian workers did a tremendous job and the house had soon been restored to its former beauty. The price for the work must have been staggering. As far as Michael could see, the new owner had made only one fatal mistake: he had bought timber elsewhere. This pissed many of the villagers off since a thick coniferous forest surrounded the village itself. It was their livelihood. Almost everyone worked in the sawmill outside the village. So the fact that the new owner had bought his timber from elsewhere had caused many people to despise him before he had moved there. Michael could understand them. The new owner of the mansion had moved in during the beginning of December. No one had seen him arriving. On the night, he had moved in there had been a blizzard of snow. The villagers had been busy keeping their open fireplaces lit as the electricity had gone in the early stages of the blizzard. People had been surprised to see that the old mansion was still standing the following day and that the lights were on. When
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had the new owner arrived? The only conclusion they reached was that he had arrived during the raging storm. Everybody agreed that the man must have been extremely lucky to manage that. The village had survived many blizzards over the years and this had been one of the worst in a long time. Even if the village had survived, the surrounding forest had not this time. Most of the trees had been broken like matches. It looked like an angry giant had trashed the woods. After the storm had subsided, it became clear that all the roads leading in to fallen trees had blocked the village. Since they all had been through many storms before, all the houses had generators as it usually took a couple of days before the electricity returned. What surprised all was the fact that the new owner also seemed to have one. This made many people think better of the man again. Simply because it proved that, the new owner had at least some knowledge of what it was like living in this part of the world. After the storm the sawmill worked around the clock as no trees was to be wasted. Mr. Strigioul had been staying in the mansion for only a week when rumors started to appear. The nasty rumor said that Mr. Strigioul was a wanted pedophile from Iraq and that he was hiding in their village from the police. Undoubtedly, the rumor had originated from the owner of the local shop/post office/bank: old man Zweit. His full name was Helmut Zweit and he was the village’s scandalmonger. Zweit was ninety-seven years old and he had taken over the role as both the
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owner of the local shop/post office/bank and scandalmonger from his father, Bert Zweit. It had been Helmut and his father that had started the rumors about Fenge Smejole back when. Old man Zweit had never been married and was probably still a virgin. Not surprising considering his hideous looks, he was the epitome of ugliness. He was bald (he had been all of his life). He had a harelip and a couple of beady eyes that peered out of their sockets. In a way, he looked like a weird rat. On his left cheek was a wart that so enormous that even Lemmy in Motorhead would have been jealous. In other words, his appearance made women turn away quickly and think of a warm happy place. Old man Zweit could be your best friend or worst enemy, the choice was entirely up to each one. Your days were numbered in the village for sure if you pissed him off. You see, even if old man Zweit was ugly as hell he had the gift of speech. He also had the power over the villagers’ lives, as he was the bank manager and the post office manager. If you started a fight with Zweit, you would find yourself not getting bills delivered in time. This resulted in no phone, no electricity, and no bank payments being made in time. Soon one would be out of money and get no credit at the local store on top of things. That left you with only two choices: either apologize to old man Zweit, or move. Therefore, the rumor about Mr. Strigioul being a pedophile on the run most certainly came from Helmut Zweit.

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4 On December 23 Michael decided to pay Mr. Strigioul a visit. Not that he had broken the law or anything (Michael hadn’t paid Zweit’s rumor much attention) but like all the other villagers he was extremely curious. There was another reason as well. The only villager that had actually met Mr. Strigioul face to face was none other than Helmut Zweit himself. This had resulted in the nasty rumor about the new owner having died out immediately as old man Zweit had threatened anyone that spoke ill of Mr. Strigioul in front of him. Michael found it very odd indeed. Zweit didn’t normally like strangers. Slowly dying from cancer, he was sure to take care of business for as long there was a breath left in him. Another thing that baffled the chief of police was that Mr. Strigioul only did his shopping late at night. So late in fact that most of the villagers were asleep when he visited Zweit who had only good things to say about Mr. Strigioul. He had never met anyone as sophisticated as him. When the decrepit old man had said this to Michael, his eyes had sparkled and he got the feeling that Zweit actually had a crush on Mr. Strigioul. Without any doubt, this intrigued Michael immensely. Another reason for his curiosity was Jan, one of the volunteers in the fire brigade who had said that the new owner was a Muslim and didn’t celebrate Christmas. Even if Michael had heard about this before he had never actually met a Muslim. He found them mysterious and weird, not celebrating Christmas!
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How absurd! Why would anyone NOT celebrate Christmas? All that nice food, the presents, the feeling of joy! So naturally, he just had to see for himself if it really was true. The snow was coming down thick as he drove the quad bike toward the mansion. He could see that the shutters to the mansion were closed and that the lights were on at the ground floor. The light shone through the cracks of the closed shutters. There were no sign of any Christmas tree with the obligatory illumination in front of the mansion as well. ‘No tree! Weirdo!’ Michael muttered under his breath. Everybody had an illuminated Christmas tree in the village. It was an unwritten rule. People competed about who was going to be first every year with old man Zweit always winning. He was first but he was also dead last when it came to removing it after Christmas. He always let that damn tree stand outside his store until mid June, still with the Christmas-tree illumination in it. Michael smiled when he thought about it. He figured that if there was such a thing as hell for spruces it most certainly was to become Helmut Zweit’s Christmas tree in front of the store. Once more Michael muttered under his breath about the lack of it at the mansion as he stopped the quadbike. It had been a long time since he had been this close to the mansion and the sight was breath taking. The old stairs made of stone leading up to the entrance had once been covered in moss, now they had been cleaned up, and the granite was threateningly dark as a result.

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He got off the quad-bike and walked up the stairs. Stopping in front of the huge door he stared in amazement, he had never seen anything like it before. It was made of solid oak and decorated in blackened iron ornaments. The ornaments depicted eagles and wolves in various death struggles with each other. Michael found them both extremely beautiful and sinister at the same time. The craftsman that made them must have been a professional, at first he thought that it might have been made by the owner himself. He was reputed to be a famous artist. However, as Michael looked closer he decided that it would be impossible, the door and the ornaments was too old. Of course, he not being a real expert when it came to antiques he couldn’t say how old it actually was. However, he had some knowledge in the matter. His father had been a blacksmith when Michael was a child. His father had once brought him to a museum in the city. Michael’s father had been enraptured by the old forge that been put on display and had listened intently as the guide told the history surrounding it. He had told Michael and his father that the quality of the old iron was better than the one used these days. The old kind didn’t rust as easily and turned more or less black over the years compared to the modern day iron that rusted fairly easy and turned more brown as time went by. Michael remembered how his father had made some iron candle holders when they returned back home and that he just hadn’t found a way to duplicate that old look. As Michael looked at the ornaments on the solid oak-door, he remembered this.

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The iron, which had been used on the door, was pitch black. The door was old and it must have cost a fortune to buy. He stretched out his right hand toward the large knocker on the door. An iron snake seemed to bite his own tail as it hung from the open jaws of a mean looking wolf. He grabbed it and knocked on the door. Even though he was wearing thick winter gloves, he could still feel the cold from the metal. A cold far more intense than the five below it really was and it seemed to have crawled right up his arm, he hoped dearly that Mr. Strigioul had heard it, as he didn’t want to touch it again. All of a sudden, Michael became dead sure that someone was standing right behind him; he could actually feel the cold stare of something hideous boring in to the back of his head. He spun around expecting to see someone there. He almost fell but found his balance again. No one was standing behind him. I do not believe in ghosts he reminded himself. But he had been so sure that there had been someone standing behind him. Michael turned around to knock once more when he got the scare of his life. The door was open and a man was standing there looking at him. ‘Jesus!’ he gasped at the man, ‘you scared the shit out of me!’ The man had an amused expression on his face as he watched Michael. Michael’s heart was pounding like a jackhammer in his chest. So, this was Mr. Strigioul. It had to be. Michael hadn’t heard anything about a butler. Whatever he had expected to find, this wasn’t it. Mr. Strigioul didn’t look like a painter and certainly not like he was Arabic. The man was as pale
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as the snow and his high cheekbones made Michael think of the Slavic people rather than Arabic. Mr. Strigioul’s hair was almost white with strands of black. His eyes were dark, almost black. He was dressed in a black suit and looked more like an eccentric millionaire than an artist. The artsy guys Michael had seen on TV had all been gay and they always wore white color stained clothes and a black beret. Mr. Strigioul didn’t look like a pansy in any way. Moreover, did he not remind Michael of someone? Michael thought so but couldn’t quite place Mr. Strigioul at the moment, but almost. He almost had it when Strigioul spoke with a soft voice. ‘Yes officer? Can I help you? Or is it chief of police?’ Michael looked into the man’s eyes and the strangest thing happened. He found that he had forgotten what it was that he had been thinking about and it frankly didn’t seem that important any longer. He felt a little confused at the moment. Was he being hypnotized? As soon as the thought popped up in his head, he felt better and he found his ability to speak again. ‘Chief of police. I am the only lawman in this village and my name is…’ ‘Fowles, Michael Fowles’ Mr. Strigioul interrupted with his soft voice, ‘I know who you are but I’m afraid I can’t imagine what you could possibly want that is so important that you come on the night before Christmas!?!’ he finished and smiled pleasantly. The smile robbed Michael of all his previous thoughts and

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he once more found himself lost in Mr. Strigioul’s dark eyes. ‘Step into the warmth of my house Michael’ said the soft voice. ‘Step into the warmth of your house, you bet’ Michael answered in a sleepy voice. Mr. Strigioul backed into the house without breaking eye contact and Michael followed. ‘Never mind the door Michael, I will close it’ ‘Never mind the door, you bet, you will close it, you bet’ Michael responded in the same sleepy voice. The door closed silently behind the chief of police as he entered the mansion.

5 When Michael came to, he found himself sitting in an armchair with a glass of brandy in his hand. How the hell had he got in to the armchair and where did the brandy come from? He just couldn’t remember, all he could feel when he tried to was serenity. No pictures came to mind. He remembered getting of his quad bike and ascending the stairs. He remembered using the beautiful knocker and a feeling of being watched. He remembered as far as seeing Mr. Strigioul for the first time but nothing more. No pictures at all of him entering the mansion, only the feeling of serenity and slowly falling asleep. Michael looked up from his glass of brandy and saw Mr. Strigioul standing next to the fireplace with his back turned. A fire crackled there

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and Michael stared at the flames that licked the dry wood. ‘So, you want to know whether I am a Muslim or not’ Mr. Strigioul established rather than asked. Had Michael told him that? Not that he could remember. What the hell was going on here!?! ‘No, I am not a Muslim’ Strigioul went on, ’the God I worship is not so different from yours actually. One could say that he is the backside of a coin where your false God represents the good as you see it. As to your inquiry about what the hell is going on I will soon enlighten you.’ Michael wanted to know how Mr. Strigioul had known what he had thought but before he could ask, Strigioul said in a loud voice: ‘You humans are so easy to read!’ He turned around, looked at Michael with a mixture of amusement, and despise on his face. When he continued his voice was once again as soft as it had been from the beginning. Something in that voice demanded undivided attention. ‘You humans regard yourselves as the crowning achievement of mother nature. You do not recognize the fact that you are nothing more than mere cattle. You consider your science as the one and only and therefore fail to see beyond your own crippling views of the world. You think that just because something cannot be explained, it does not exist! You are narrow-minded in all aspects and it is because of your own science. None of you knows the truth, but I will educate you. Tonight I will teach you the real Truth’

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It had become clear to Michael that the old man was insane. As slowly as he could he took out his revolver from the holster and cocked it. He held it tightly in is hand next to his thigh, ready to blow the old man’s brains all over the fireplace if necessary. If there was something Michael was good at it was shooting and from this distance, it would be like stealing candy from a baby. ‘Insane? Not at all’ Mr. Strigioul answered without being asked. Once again, he established eye contact with Michael before he continued. For the moment, being Michael forgot all about his revolver and he listened to Mr. Strigioul who continued in his soft voice: ‘Now, let me tell you who the previous owner of this house was. The villagers knew him as Fenge Smejole. May I once again remark on how stupid humans are by nature? The name is an anagram for a more famous, or should I say Infamous, man. Does the name Josef Mengele ring any bells? Fenge Smejole was Josef Mengele. He was the village doctor, was he not? One may wonder why he should choose to live the reminder of his life in this godforsaken village but I know better. As this is a fairly inbred village it means that you are even more stupid than other humans, hence he knew that none here would ever put two and two together and work out who he really was.’ Michael couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Strigioul broke eye contact and stared into the fireplace instead. In an instant, Michael remembered his revolver and his thoughts started to spin around in his head. Josef Mengele!?! It was starting to become extremely clear to Michael that Mr. Strigioul was
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crazy as horseshit. He just may have to put his poor demented man out of his misery he thought. The flames from the fire danced in Strigioul’s eyes. Michael relaxed once more when he heard the old man’s soft voice again; it was as if he was powerless against it. ‘Josef Mengele was considered by most to be insane and sick, a true lunatic. Not by me though. No, I regard him as one of the few scientists that was not hindered by a ridiculous conscience and as a reward, he saw the endless possibilities his research provided. His experiments were outstanding! It boggles the mind to think what that man could have achieved if he had been given even half a chance. However, it was not to be, was it? No, the scientists of today refuse to use any of his work even if it could help them. Those brain dead idiots with their idiotic conscience! I tell you Michael, those animal rights groups that have infested your society have killed more humans than science has killed rats with their interference. Imagine! You actually value a rats life higher than a humans!?! This proves what I said about humans being stupid. Mengele did not have to suffer the idiotic animal rights groups, experimented on both humans and animals, and was the first to recognize the dangers of smoking! Nevertheless, since he was a Nazi his work could not be used. Therefore, they waited until almost thirty years later before saying that smoking could be dangerous. He was a great man as I see it. Just a petty that he did not live in my part of the world. I would have liked to have met him, I think I would have liked him. His skills could have served me greatly.’ His eyes
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left the fire and fixed upon Michael’s again. Mr. Strigioul’s face had become hard and his eyes were now cold and dead, he wore a smile that would have suited a grinning shark better. Michael held his revolver even tighter. The old man looked like a maniac and Michael knew from bitter experience how dangerous maniacs could be… 6 …Michael and his mentor on the police force, a veteran named Karl Frautheid, had received an alarm concerning a family dispute in an apartment. They had got there and entered the building, which was located in a run down part of the town. According to dispatch, the caller had said that it sounded like someone was being murdered in the apartment above. When Michael and Karl had reached it, everything had been silent. Karl had knocked on the door, identified himself and Michael as the police, and demanded that whoever was in the apartment should open the door. A man’s voice had said that the door was unlocked and invited them in. Karl had whispered to Michael, who had been a rookie at that time, to stay behind him and then he had pulled out his gun. Michael had followed suit. Karl had opened the door and it had swung slowly open. A pungent smell of something that had reminded Michael of roasted chicken had filled the hallway. Karl had gone into the apartment, gun pointing at the floor but at the ready. Michael had been filled with an ominous feeling and had stood still for a moment in the hallway. He hadn’t been able to move
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until Karl’s strong voice floated out from the kitchen and demanded someone to drop the knife. That had made Michael react and he had started towards his mentor’s voice. Before he had reached Karl, a muffled voice had screamed: ‘FOCKUNG COPS!’ Just as Michael had reached Karl, a shot had rung out. The scene that had met Michael’s eyes had been forever forged into his mind and he still dreamed about it. Sitting by the kitchen table there had been a young boy tied to a chair. On the table, there had been a cooked small body. It turned out to be the young boy’s little brother, aged three. Their parents had been divorced and they had been staying with their father for the weekend. The father had been drinking heavily all weekend and all of a sudden, something had snapped in him. He had started to rape his sons repeatedly. Finally, the smallest one had died from the brutal treatment. The father had then tied his oldest son, aged six, to a chair and forced him to watch as he had gutted his little brother. He had prepared him with all sorts of spices and stuffed the empty chest cavity as if he had been a turkey. He had then cooked his dead son in the oven and eaten him; he had also force-fed his oldest son. When Karl had reached the kitchen, the crazed man had been holding a big kitchen knife at the temple of his son. His mouth had been full of meat and the little boy had thrown up all over himself from being force-fed large chunks of his brother. The tip of the knife had started to sink into the little boy’s temple and just as Michael had reached Karl, a bullet from the veteran’s gun had entered the

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crazed father’s forehead and opened up the back of the skull in a cloud of brain matter and bone fragments. The saddest part of the story was that the six-yearold had survived. Maybe it sounded harsh, but what kind of life waited for him as an adult? Michael doubted that the boy would grow up to be normal after something like that. He had never felt the same again after that. Michael hadn’t eaten any kind of bird since then… 7 …‘The boy survived? Good for him!’ Mr. Strigioul interrupted Michael’s recollection. He flinched and looked at the crazy man in front of him. Strigioul looked back, eyes sparkling with malice. In his soft persuasive voice he went on: ‘educated in the art of death at such an early stage of life. Ah, just like myself! You did good Michael, to save his life. Maybe he will get to live a life full of joy like me? I have lived a rich life indeed, so much beautiful death I have seen! You know, I was old when Jesus heckled the priests, just like in the song with Rolling Stones. Of course, the song is about my God but nevertheless, it could be about me! I have always enjoyed the music you humans make. Even if you are nothing but mere cattle you have always made good music, and it gets better and better. Many of us like to listen to rock and metal; do you listen to rock and metal, Michael?’ Was he kidding!?! This old fart was truly insane! The whole thing felt like an absurd sketch by Monty Python.
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‘Yes, I agree Michael. You are also good at comedy. Anyway, I have left the subject at hand. Forgive an old man for his wandering mind. Back to Mengele, the Angel of Death. He was, as I said before, a genius. He was one of a kind. Lucky for me not many humans have the ability to think outside the box as he did. The conscience is what makes the humans mere cattle. Look at all those men that crashed and burned just because of the world’s conscience: Hitler, Stalin, Hussein, and Kennedy! The history is full of pathetic fools that have fallen. Your belief in science is what hinders you! Take me for instance! According to your science, my kind does not exist. No, we are the result of a drunken Irish man and his deranged fantasy. We are made to scare the audience in the theaters!’ Mr. Strigioul had started to pace back and forth in front of the fireplace. Michael was becoming scared. The old man didn’t look old anymore, he looked ancient. His face was becoming wrinkled and worn and his eyes were blacker that oil. Michael squeezed the handle of his revolver; the feel of the weapon made him feel braver and asked in a calm voice: ‘And what exactly are you Mr. Strigioul? ´ He stopped dead in front of Michael had looked at him with an amused smile on his face. All of a sudden, Michael became certain that Strigioul had emptied his revolver during the time he had been lost. Mr. Strigioul’s smile became a grin and spoke in his soft voice: ‘There you go! You have proven my argument that humans are helplessly stupid and narrow minded. Why, I am a vampire of course! All of us are thankful
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that our food does not think for itself. It would do us no good if you started to plot against us. We prefer our cattle to stay stupid so that we can feed on them when we are hungry. The fact that you use only ten percent of your brains suits us fine’ Michael looked at Mr. Strigioul in disbelief. ‘A vampire?’ he asked exasperated. Strigioul only grinned in reply. ‘Take yourself, Michael. Why do you think I let you keep the revolver you are holding in your hand so tightly if I thought it could hurt me in any way? I know what you are thinking but I can assure you that it is still loaded. You think I am crazy, do you not?’ his black eyes had started to glitter around the edges and a pulse of deep red had appeared in the center of them. ‘I am not crazy. I suggest that you check your revolver Michael. You will see that it is still loaded and know that I am no liar.’ ‘What do you think I am? An idiot!?!’ Michael roared suddenly. He could feel an uncontrollable anger rising within him. ‘You just want to fool me to take my eyes off of you! And stop looking into my head!’ he screamed. His heart was racing and the adrenaline was coursing through his veins making him feel nauseous. The time for action had come and Michael pointed the revolver at Mr. Strigioul’s face. When he didn’t even flinch, Michael was sure that the gun was unloaded. ‘My dear Michael Fowles!’ Strigioul said amused. ‘How about if I let you handcuff me? Would that be sufficient? Throw them to me and I will put them on’

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‘Damn right!’ Michael said, ‘and after you put them on you sit your ass down on the floor!’ He threw his handcuffs to Mr. Strigioul who caught them in midair. ‘Behind your back old man and don’t try anything stupid!’ Michael instructed him. Strigioul did as he was told and sat down on the floor with his arms cuffed behind his back. Michael opened the chamber of the revolver and saw that it contained bullets. However, he had to be sure. What if they were blanks? He brought one bullet out and saw that it was live ammo. ‘You see? Still loaded, just as I said it was. Now, Michael, why do you not shoot me? You know you want to. No one would ever know what happened here this evening.’ Mr. Strigioul said with a grin. Even if he really did feel like killing the old man he just couldn’t. Michael didn’t like the way his mind was working at the moment. Where did his hate and will to kill this defenseless old man come from? ‘DEFENSELESS!?!’ Strigioul roared. ‘I AM NO SUCH THING! I HAVE AWOKEN YOUR PRIMAL ESSENCE AND STILL YOU HESITATE?’ Michael stared in disbelief at the enraged man on the floor. When Mr. Strigioul spoke, his voice was once again soft. ‘You fool…’ In a blink of an eye, he was on his feet and standing in front of Michael. ‘Vampire?’ Michael said and pulled the trigger. He had expected Mr. Strigioul’s face to disappear in a
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mess of blood and bones. Instead, the man still stood there, his face intact. He stretched out his right hand, offering the handcuffs back to Michael. When he didn’t take them Strigioul let them fall to the floor with a dull thud. ‘You can not kill me. In addition, to your question if I celebrate Christmas I can inform you that I do not believe in Santa Claus. I have lived for over two thousand years and I have never come across a fat jolly man dressed in red with any good intentions. However, I do rather enjoy eating Christmas dinner and this year I have chosen this village as my Christmas buffet. You, Michael, is my appetizer’ Mr. Strigioul laughed merrily. In Michael’s ears, the laughter turned into the sound of silver bells and he became paralyzed as he watched Mr. Strigioul’s canine teeth become elongated. A voice inside Michael urged him to run for dear life! However, his legs refused to obey. It was as if they were in a world where Death was a friend and should be embraced rather than feared. Michael’s mind rang with the sound of ringing silver bells and singing choirs. The singing voices promised him eternal life. Michael didn’t resist them, why should he? Those songs were so sweet, almost like carols. And didn’t the silver bells sound like jingling bells? May be that it was the Grim Reaper’s Christmas carols but they still were as beautiful as the recently fallen snow. Michael was filled with joy and he let Mr. Strigioul give him the embrace of death willingly…

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Jingle Bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way

THE CROOKED CROSS
“Do you not see what I see? Do you not hear
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Death approaching?”
Doom of Odin from the Book of Heroes

A car picked me up at the airport. It was snowing heavily but it didn’t seem to bother my ride much. His name was Gunnar Hod, a huge man in his sixties. When I say huge, I mean HUGE! He was the chief archeologist at the site I was going to. My name is Thor Osgood and I was a journalist for a magazine called the science explorer and had been sent to Sweden to do some work. An old wooden church had been found and I was there to follow the excavation at the site. My driver hardly said a word to me. At first, I thought it was because he didn’t speak English very well but it turned out that he wouldn’t speak more than necessary. After a long ride, we reached a small village named Hodmimir. It consisted of four, small wooden houses and a big brick building. We pulled up in front of the brick house. The snowing had momentarily stopped but it was cold though, really cold. The surrounding forest lay dark and silent. No wind blew and a feeling of isolation came over me. I remember wondering why the Vikings had decided that this was the place to live. They must have been of a special breed. Parked next to the building was an old tractor with a plow. Snow covered most of it and didn’t look like it had been used for a long time. I stood there and took deep breaths of the cold winter air feeling a little refreshed.

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Gunnar, my silent driver, took my suitcase from the trunk and headed for the building. I followed him. Gunnar showed me into the old building that seemed to be totally deserted from the outside. I was mighty surprised to see that the house had a bar. Imagine that; open a bar in the middle of nowhere! Gunnar put down my suitcase and spoke in Swedish to the man behind the counter. He nodded and smiled at me. I turned to thank Gunnar for the help but he was already out the door. I walked up to the bartender. He introduced himself as Tomas Petterson, the landlord. He said the name of the bar was the Rainbow bridge. A fantastic name for a bar IN THE CIVILIZED WORLD! Not in a little shitty village in the middle of nowhere! I thought to myself. Tomas the landlord showed me to my room on the second floor. He turned out to be a little more talkative than Gunnar had been. His English was bad as hell but that was okay, at least he talked. He said I had been very lucky indeed to have made it there at all. I asked what he meant and he looked at me as if I was joking. ‘Big storm coming. Vary bad dey say’ he answered in a mix between Swedish and English. I hadn’t heard anything about an oncoming storm but I nodded as if I knew what he was talking about. My traveling companion Gunnar hadn’t told me anything and the radio had broadcasted in Swedish. Tomas went on telling me how my name was Scandinavian. That it was the name of one of their ancient Gods. I already knew this but kept silent. It was clear he enjoyed

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telling me and as a reporter one have to keep the natives happy. If you want a good interview that is. As I unpacked, I brought out my camera. I turned around to take the owner’s picture but he had vanished. One second Tomas had stood in the doorway, the next he was gone! Almost like in a movie. I looked around my sleeping quarters. The room was fairly big. The floor was made of pine that seemed to be older than the dinosaurs. It was full of scratches and dark stains. The walls were covered in blue wallpaper and here and there pictures hung. One depicted a stony shoreline with waves crushing into it. Another showed some deer and a moose in a glade. One of the pictures in particular caught my attention. It was an oil painting of a wooden church. At the door, there stood a huddled figure with something blue in his face. At first, I couldn’t make out what it was but after a while my tired brain realized it was his eyes. They were extremely blue, almost electric. The contrast to the other dull colors in which it had been painted in was eerie. The church itself seemed to be falling apart. The boards had rotted away here and there and there were a couple of big holes in the roof. A crooked cross rested on top of the church. It looked as if time and foul weather had taken its toll on both the place. Menacing trees surrounded the derelict building. They almost seemed to reach for it with their gnarly branches. Looked like giants in a way. In the left corner, the painter had signed it. Leif Cur it said. I remember thinking that it was a creepy looking painting. Those intense blue eyes of the huddled figure in the painting did it.
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My eyes traveled across the room and found a huge bed and it looked inviting. It was warm and I started to feel drowsy. It had been a long journey. Outside the snow had begun to fall again. It thickened as I watched and I could hardly see a thing. The surrounding forest was nothing but a white blur. I lay down on the bed. The wind had picked up on the outside and it howled through the eaves of the house. I was asleep before I knew it. Someone shaking me violently awakened me. I opened my eyes and stared into the bluest eyes I had ever seen. I sat up horrified. As my eyes adjusted to the room, I saw it was empty! I was alone. I figured that it must have been a nightmare, summoned no doubt by the damn painting. I looked out the window but still couldn’t see a thing. It was already dark. The wind had picked up even more. It felt like there was a giant out there shaking the whole building from time to time. I got out of bed and changed clothes. I was starving. I went downstairs and this time I got a good look at the bar. It was beautiful. The walls were pine and so was the floor, just like my room. It smelled of resin, a scent I love. There was a huge fireplace with a fire going in it. It sparkled and crackled and the flames made the shadows in the room dance. Mounted on the walls were several moose heads and even a couple of wild bore. The bar itself was made of the same kind of red withered bricks as the building. Bricked in to the front of it were some old wooden wagon wheels. The combination was stunning! The counter was made of a wide piece of oak, as I got nearer; I saw that there
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were literally hundreds of names carved into it. Tomas, who was standing behind the bar, watched me closely. ‘Did you sleep gudd?’ he asked in his Scandinavian accent. I nodded. ‘Whot wudd you drink?’ he asked. ‘I’ll have a pint of lager’ I said. ‘No pinnt, only local drink’ he answered. I wondered why he had asked in the first place but I guess he was just trying to be polite. He poured some greenish liquid into a small glass. Pieces of grass floated around in it. Tomas the owner looked amused and nodded for me to drink it. Well, when in Rome I thought and drank. It tasted like poison! I coughed as my eyes watered. Tomas chuckled and nodded approvingly. I gasped for air and sputtered: ‘what…the bloody hell…was…th-that!?’ A deep voice spoke up from behind me: ‘A local specialty. It is called besk and is vodka spiced with wormwood. The taste takes some getting used to but it is good for you’ I turned around and saw Gunnar sitting in the corner of the room. I hadn’t noticed before but his eyes was startling blue and made me think of the painting upstairs. His hair and beard was almost white. He looked like a proper Scandinavian, a true Viking. I made a mental note to put that in my piece, as I liked the sound of that. I turned around to pay for my hideous drink and found that it had been refilled. ‘Tonight all drink on house’ Tomas said and smiled. I thanked him and took my glass reluctantly. I walked over to Gunnar and asked if I could join him. My plan on buying him a drink was useless since
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all the drinks were on the house. Besides, he didn’t drink from a small glass like me, but from a tankard. From the smell that rose from it, I deducted that he drank the same horrible crap as me. He nodded and I sat down opposite him. ‘Is it okay if I ask you a couple of questions?’ I asked, fishing out a pad and a ballpoint pen. No recorder here, I am the kind of reporter that believes it’s better to write down the interviews. A recorder can make people uncomfortable. Gunnar took a swig from the tankard and nodded once more. I was awed that he could drink that poison without as much as a grimace. My own glass stood untouched. ‘Alright then, so, your name is Gunnar Hod?’ I asked. He nodded. ‘Okay, how did you discover the church? I mean, Hodmimir isn’t very big is it?’ He sat in silence for a long time and I was just about to ask him again when he answered. ‘It was not discovered by me but by some hiker. Tomas says it has always been there, in Hodmimir woods. None has ever thought much of it. Why should they? The church is falling apart and there are no graves, so why bother?’ ‘True’ Tomas added from the bar. Gunnar continued. ‘Of course, they had no idea that it was a sacred place. Hodmimir woods are said to be haunted but that is just hearsay. Maybe the rumor had been started to keep people away…’ he said with his deep voice.

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‘Do you know how old it is? It’s history?’ I asked. Once again, I was met by silence for a long time before he answered. ‘Well, I can’t be certain, maybe a thousands years old. Older? Maybe… the origin of it is that it was a temple dedicated to the Scandinavian Gods. But not in honor of the All-father but for Loki…that is what is so strange. This is the first time I have ever heard of Vikings building a temple in his honor. Do you know who Loki was?’ he asked and looked at me with his startling blue eyes. I nodded; I knew the short version of Scandinavian folklore. Loki was the god of mischief. The troublemaker. Loki was the Scandinavian equivalence to Lucifer. ‘But I thought it was a church? And how can there be a church, or temple for that matter, that might be older than both religions?’ I asked. Gunnar took another swig from the tankard. He was silent for a long, long time as he pondered the question. ‘Well, it is a church and it isn’t, I’ll try to explain…’ he finally said, ‘let me tell you about how the Vikings were forced to live by the Christian doctrine. Those that refused were killed and those that said yes was christened and then killed. Not all but many, as a warning to those who still worshipped the old gods. It wasn’t easy for the church though. There were too many temples that reminded the Vikings of their true gods. The church understood what had to be done. Instead of burning the temples to the ground, they turned them into churches. All the really old churches in Scandinavia are originally temples built for the
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ancient gods. Instead of going to the temple to worship Odin they went to church…the old ways died quickly. The church in the woods are one of the oldest I’ve seen. As for the Aesir, they are older than you think. I will take you there tomorrow and you will see why it is so special’ he finished. He emptied the tankard and got up. I tried to ask him one more question but he ignored me. Instead, he went out into the raging storm. Gunnar seemed to have forgotten how to speak once again. I looked at Tomas the owner. ‘Doesn’t he stay here?’ I asked. ‘No, he sliips in the village…whot wudd you like to eet?’ he replied. I had completely forgotten how hungry I was. My stomach rumbled at the mere thought of food. ‘I’ll take whatever you have mate. I’m starving!’ Tomas nodded and disappeared into a room behind the bar. I looked at the glass with the green poison in front of me. If I was going to get rid of it, the time was now. I looked around the room, searching for a place to ditch the vile contents. My eyes traveled to the crackling fireplace. No good. I sighed and looked at the revolting drink… I emptied the glass and grimaced at the bitter, horrible taste. My dinner arrived and it consisted of potatoes, gravy and moose meat. It was wonderful. I thanked Tomas and went up to my room. As I lay in my bed thinking about Gunnar and his sudden decision to end the interview, I drifted off to sleep. The howling wind was soothing and the dinner along with the warmth of the room made me drowsy.
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I dreamed. I was walking through the dark Hodmimir forest. The storm was still raging but it didn’t reach into the thick coniferous forest. I could hear the trees creaking as the wind tugged at the treetops. I saw a clearing. As I got nearer, I noticed a man walking ahead of me. I stopped. Had he been there all along? Walking in front of me? The man turned briefly and I saw a sparkle of electric blue in his face. I felt both scared and curious at the same time. I snuck closer, unable to stop myself. The man was well into the clearing when I reached it. I saw what he was heading for as I hid behind a tree. In the middle of the clearing stood the old church from the painting. It looked like nothing but a ruin. Its wooden panels had rotted away in many places and the roof had several huge holes. At the top of the church tower a crooked cross rested. I watched as he entered. While I was pondering whether I should follow him or not a voice whispered in my ear: I cannot awake them yet! Suddenly someone shook me hard and I opened my sleepy eyes. I stared into the bluest eyes I’d ever seen and I sat up instantly. The room was empty like before…I was alone. Never had I been so certain that my mind was cracking, as I was right then. I looked out the window and saw that it was morning. The snow was coming down heavily and the wind came in short, hard bursts. I got out of bed and started to get dressed. The painting of the church caught my eyes and a chill went down my spine as I remembered the dream. It was such a disturbing picture. I once more looked at the name of the painter. Leif Cur. I made a
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mental note to ask Tomas if he knew whom that was. The blue eyes seemed to follow my every move so I took down the painting and leaned it against the wall facing it. There came a heavy knock on the door. ‘Enter’ I said. The door swung open and Gunnar entered. ‘Good morning’ Gunnar only grunted in response. ‘We are late. There is a hurricane coming this way and if you want to see the church we will have to go now!’ he said. ‘Do you know who Leif Cur was?’ I asked as I was slipping into my coat. Gunnar looked at me for a long time before answering. When he did, he sounded tense. ‘How do you know of him?’ he asked. His startling blue eyes seemed to sparkle. ‘I don’t. I just wondered who he was’ ‘Why?’ ‘Well, because of the painting of course’ ‘What painting?’ Gunnar asked. Now he sounded confused rather than tense. ‘That one’ I said and pointed at the painting I had put on the floor. Gunnar went and picked it up. He looked at it for a long time. Then at me. ‘Are you trying to be funny?’ he asked. His eyes seemed to dig into my mind. Now it was my turn to be confused. ‘What do you mean? That’s a of the church you’ve found, right? So who’s this Leif that has painted it?

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I’m not pulling your leg, I really want to know, thought I’d use that picture in the magazine’ ‘If you are trying to be funny it is not working. I know who Leif is and he hasn’t done any paintings, let alone a map over the region. Do you think we Swedes are dumb?’ he asked angrily. ‘What map?’ I asked and reached for the painting. Gunnar threw it on the floor and the glass shattered. Glass!? But the picture I had seen had been an oil painting!? I looked down and saw that it was indeed a map, a map I hadn’t seen before. My mind raced. What the hell was going on!? I looked up and saw that Gunnar was waiting for me to explain myself. ‘I must have dreamt it…I didn’t mean to take the piss…sorry mate’ I said. ‘Well, can you tell me how you know Leif? Or how you know of him?’ he corrected himself. To this, I had no answer. ‘Now you listen, what I want to know is how you found out? Did Tomas tell you?’ I shook my head. ‘He must have. Well, I will ask him when we meet him. If he has told you I …but he wouldn’t? Tomas knows better. He should know better. I told him not to…Anyway, he is waiting at the church for us’ he finished and walked past me. I felt confused and almost forgot my camera. Gunnar walked down the stairs and out into the heavy snowfall. It was hard to keep up with him. We walked through the falling snow and I couldn’t understand how he knew where to go. The world was
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white and the short bursts of wind blurred my vision making it almost impossible to see anything, let alone where we were going. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t see any of the houses or even the forest. Still, Gunnar pressed on in silence. All of a sudden, the snow eased up and the Hodmimir forest loomed out of the whiteness. Without slowing down Gunnar continued and I followed. Gunnar said nothing; he seemed oblivious of my presence. I couldn’t have spoken even if I wanted to anyway. The pace we kept was too high for me and I was out of breath. We had only walked for a short while when trees began to snap in the distance. It sounded as if a giant, or even giants, came walking through the forest toward us. ‘The hurricane is here. We have to hurry before they come’ Gunnar said and picked up the pace. I had to more or less run to keep up with him. Who the hell were “they”!? In the distance, I could see a clearing and my blood went cold. I slowed down but quickly picked up speed again as more trees snapped, this time close. As we got to the clearing, I saw the church. It was just like in my dream and in the painting that evidently never existed. The wood panels that had rotted away in places, the big holes in the roof were there. Even the crooked cross was resting on top of the church tower. I stopped to take a picture but Gunnar didn’t slow down. I hurried after him. The clearing itself was eerily calm. Not so much as a rustle in the trees from the wind and hardly any snow fell. Gunnar reached the door leading into the church.
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There he stopped. The door was open and he stared into the gloomy interior. The sound of trees snapping like matches filled the air. The hurricane raged all around us, yet no wind disturbed the clearing. I stopped next to Gunnar. He pushed me inside. I almost lost my balance and grabbed hold of someone standing in there to keep myself from falling. The person caught me and I looked at him gratefully. It was a young man and he smiled at me. There was something strange about him. I could see his face clearly but at the same time, I couldn’t. It was as if he was there but at the same time, he wasn’t. His hair was strange as well. It changed colors somehow. At first I thought it was raven-black but changed my mind to brown and it turned to brown!? My mind corrected itself to blond, red, white and back to raven-black and the man’s hair changed with it. I thought that my mind played tricks on me. As I looked into the man’s eyes, I felt weird, as if I was drowning. It was like staring in to a couple of deep wells. The door banged shut behind me and I turned around, still dizzy. Gunnar had closed the door and stood with his back turned. ‘Have you done as he requested of you?’ he asked. The man behind me answered and I turned back to look at him. ‘Why, of course! Look for yourself’ I once again found myself staring into his eyes but looked away quickly. Something was off but I didn’t know what. ‘Hello Thor the human, I am Leif Cur. Pleased to meet you’ the man said and smiled. The name made me jump. Leif Cur!? So this was the artist of the
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painting that evidently didn’t exist. A man I’d never met but whose name I knew. Leif Cur smiled. I noticed his teeth were unnaturally white and even. ‘How- I mean…?’ I began confused. Before he could answer, a thunderous voice spoke behind me: ‘Be quiet human!’ I spun around, wondering what he meant by “human” but my words were stuck in my throat. Standing where Gunnar had stood mere moments before was a giant of a man with sparkling blue eyes. He had long white hair and a huge beard just like Gunnar, but was by far taller. He was dressed in some animal skin. He looked ancient but it could not be who I thought it was? Could it? A Scandinavian god!? Here!? In this day and age? No, that was impossible! My brain insisted that I should take a closer look. As I did, the man who called himself Leif Cur laughed. It sounded like a million tormented screams that laugh. The giant looked furious. His eyes flashed like lightning. ‘Damn it Loki! You never learn do you? Why are you messing with the human’s head? Calling yourself Leif Cur! Who do you think you are!?’ the giant thundered. He raised his right arm; in his hand, he held the fabled war hammer, Mjollnir. I was more confused than before, not to mention terrified. Had I heard right? Had he said Loki? If so, then the giant was none other than: ‘Thor! Calm down! You know what has to be done…the time has come. Loki, have you done as I asked of you?’ a calm, deep voice asked. Thor and
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Loki looked toward the voice. They both looked awed. Loki nodded in answer. ‘Good, good! So, this is the best you could find?’ the voice inquired. ‘Yes All-Father. Freyja swears by him. Says he is one of the last purebloods’ Thor answered. AllFather? Was the man in the shadows really Odin? The owner of the voice came walking towards me out of the shadows. I had expected to see the traditional Odin. The one depicted as a hero with an eye patch. The man in front of me was hideous. His face was a mess of scarred tissue and a vicious looking eye glared at me from one socket, the other was nothing but a black hole surrounded by scar tissue. The eye seemed to be made of stone and changed color from white to blue to black. The man had long yellowing hair. Small tests of beard stuck out here and there between the scars on his face. He grinned but it looked more as if he was growling at me. ‘Thor the human! Welcome to my home! I know I am not what you expected but try hanging in a tree for nine days yourself and see how you look afterwards! Besides, all the wars have taken its toll on me. Are you afraid?’ he asked. I discovered that I wasn’t. My fear had somehow left me. I felt strangely calm. Something moved behind him. As my eyes adjusted, I saw that it was Tomas, the owner of the bar. ‘Ah! I see you have noticed that we are not alone. Do not worry about Tomas though; he will soon have played his part. The blood of a bastard on my altar! It is what the sibyl said I needed…mixed with the blood of a true Viking…she said it would
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be the only way to stop Loki here from awakening all his beasts, his bastards… his children’ he said and smiled his nasty grin. ‘Yes, sweet blood for me! He was easy to find’ Odin growled and cocked a thumb toward Tomas. ‘Seems like the world today is filled with bastards! It was harder to find you though, one of the last pure Scandinavians…’ Thor and Loki shot menacing glares at each other. Odin didn’t seem to notice. Either that or he just didn’t care. ‘What do you want from me? What’s going on!?’ I asked. Odin turned around and watched me for a long time. His hideous eye seemed to stare straight through me. ‘Let us start with your last question, the answer will satisfy both. You are inside the remains of Valhalla. For a thousand years, we have slept in here, hidden from the world. The Christians tried to kill us but we refused to give in. The first to awake was supposed to be me, the All-Father so I could prepare for battle against Loki and his giants. This was what the sibyl had predicted. She turned out to be wrong. Loki here managed to get free from his cave somehow, his prison where he was sentenced to spend an eternity for a heinous crime. When he killed Balder, we killed his son in return… we tied Loki to three large boulders using his dead son’s intestines. A poisonous snake was placed above him and its venom dripped from its fangs. Loki’s wife stayed with him to gather up the poison in a bowl before it hit him…I wonder what
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Loki has done to her…she disappeared… anyway, he has destroyed most of Valhalla during his freedom. He has also pestered mankind pretending to be Lucifer…’ Odin looked at Loki with contempt. After a while, his eye shifted back to me. I could feel him reaching into my mind. ‘He has done too much damage’ he continued, ‘if I hadn’t awakened in time he would surely have destroyed us all. I never thought the prophecy was true, that Loki would destroy Valhalla. But he has. During our sleep, he has killed most of us…Tyr… Ullr…my wife Frigg…all but me, Thor, Freyja… The hurricane you hear outside is the awakened fury of the Giants, Loki’s allies. The war hasn’t started yet. Heimdall the guardian still hasn’t sounded his horn…there are still time left to prevent our downfall. I sought out the sibyl in Niflheim, the kingdom of the dead, to ask her what could be done to stop Loki from fulfilling the prophecy. She told me what had to be done…’ Odin said. He walked up to the altar where Tomas was. The man had been tied to an even more crooked cross than the one resting on top of the church. He stared in chock as Odin drew near. Fear shone out of Tomas’s eyes. It was clear that the man tried to speak but it was as if his lips had been sealed magically. Odin held up his right hand and from thin air, the mythic spear Gungnir appeared. It was magic and never missed its mark. Without hesitation, Odin threw the spear and it hit Tomas straight in his heart. His struggling ceased and he slumped in his ropes, his head hung. His mouth
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was finally open. A black mist came pouring out of it. It swirled around on the altar and I could see it trying to take on the form of two birds. ‘Hugin and Munin my friends, arise from the blood of a traitor…’ Odin said, ‘…become my thought and sense once again!’ The black mist took on a solid form and two black ravens appeared. I slowly backed away. ‘Yes’ Odin said as he turned to me. Hugin and Munin landed on each shoulder and flapped their wings, cawing. ‘…now you know your purpose: in your blood awaits our salvation…your blood will cleanse Valhalla of the blood spilled by Loki here…With your help I can save Valhalla and undo Loki’s call for the giants. Will you give it freely?’ I was backing away from the mad god when Loki grabbed me from behind. He laughed in my ear. ‘He will give his blood!’ he said to Odin and before I had a chance to react, my chest hurt like hell. Loki had slashed me with a knife. It had cut through my jacket all the way into my ribs and I could feel warm blood pouring out of me. Loki let go of me and I fell to my knees. It hurt like a son of a bitch and I gasped for air. Some drops of blood hit the floor and the ground shook as they did. I looked up at Odin expecting his mythical spear to come hurdling towards me. Instead, I saw that he was furious. ‘Loki! What have you done!’ he roared. Laughter filled the church. I looked around and saw that Loki had knocked out Thor with his own hammer. He was standing in the open doorway. In the clearing
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behind him, I could see enormous shadows moving. More blood escaped me and as it hit the floor the ground shook violently again. ‘Odin, you have served me well! When I pretended to be Freyja, I never thought you’d fall for it! When I posed as a sibyl, I NEVER thought you would fall for it! Hel was glad to help me. Who wouldn’t help your own father?’ For a moment Loki transformed into my boss, then to an old woman and then back again. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. ‘See!? It’s easy! I never managed to kill you or Thor even though I wanted to. I tried everything. Nothing worked! I had just about given up hope when I finally managed to awaken Hel. I was so pleased…I knew that she was what I needed. She serves us both…the goddess of death! For as long as I provide her with souls she is happy…I promised her a lot more if she helped me and she agreed. Hel was hungry and I could feed her! I had already awakened the Midgard serpent, Nidhogg had chewed through the first root of yggdrasill… what I needed was Fenrir. The last of my children, the one said to kill you, Odin. But how could I free my child? Hel knew. She knew what was needed to break the rope those damn dwarfs made…the Gleipnir…and now you have provided me with what I needed and Fenrir is loose… my son is coming for you…’ ‘What do you mean, traitor!?’ Odin growled. Loki laughed once more.

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‘Ah, you are a senile old god aren’t you? Did you really think that I would forgive you for what you did to me? You chained my child to a cliff and banished me from Valhalla! You killed my son and tied me with his intestines inside a dirty cave! You made me into a fool for all eternity! I swore revenge! My wife never understood that for as long as she kept the poison from hitting me, Valhalla was safe! She fell asleep after five hundred years; the poison hit me and shook me so violently that the intestines broke! When I got loose I killed her…it was what she deserved’ The ground shook violently. The crooked cross by the altar with the dead Tomas tied to it tipped over. I suddenly knew what the ruckus was. It was the legendary Fenrir coming. A beast created by Loki in the shape of an enormous wolf. It was said that when Fenrir was set free Loki would storm Valhalla with his giants. Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods, the end of the world… I fell on to my back in disbelief and pain. ‘The blood…’ Odin said calmly. Loki nodded and grinned. ‘yes, the blood you fool’ he said, ‘the only way for me to brake Fenrir free was to kill Valhalla’s guardian and defile the great hall with human blood…I could kill the human but not Heimdall. The prophecy stopped me. Hel told me that you were the only one that could kill him. She said that if you spilled the blood of the guardian upon your own altar and I spilled the blood of a true descendant of the Vikings on the floor of Valhalla,
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then the magic that binds Fenrir would break. I worked out a plan to trick you into killing the guardian’ ‘Tomas…’ ‘Yes, Tomas. He was your guardian…he was Heimdall. Thor the human here provided me with the blood needed. I was afraid that he would leave so I entranced him with my painting. That stupid oaf Thor kept interfering all the time! He knew something was wrong. Thor had his suspicions so he woke the human up whenever I got too close. Well, last night he forgot to check in on the human. Tomas was on his mind, he suspected that he might be Heimdall the guardian but he wasn’t sure. Thor is way smarter than you think, he is slow but he gets there in the end! When he realized that something was going on, I had already left. It has served me well that room. Its floor is stained with the blood of the gods I have killed. That building is MY temple now! It rests on top of my cave…’ Loki’s voice trembled in anger. Odin looked calm on the other hand. ‘So you tricked me. Our death is upon us… Loki…let the final battle begin’ he said. Loki’s grin disappeared in an instant and he looked furious. The ground shook violently and the floor cracked. ‘Fenrir is going to kill you, old man…you should never have banished me from this place...now you fight without your weapon!’ Loki roared. He put his right hand into the air and Odin’s spear flew towards him. Odin said nothing. What happened next brought the end of the world around. The spear changed
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direction and went straight for Loki’s heart. Odin laughed triumphantly. The spear hit its mark and continued straight trough. At the same moment Loki’s head exploded as Thor’s hammer came flying from behind. Thor had awakened and had thrown his hammer at Loki. He roared as the spear that had gone through Loki hit him. He staggered with his huge hands holding it. The floor was covered in blood and Thor hit the ground like a ton of bricks as he died. Odin stopped laughing. Thor’s hammer had punched a huge hole in Odin’s chest. His eye bulged and he tried to speak. With no lungs or heart, it was useless and he fell over. The ground shook constantly as if something was coming out of it. I looked around and saw only mayhem. Two dead gods, one dying, and their dead guardian. Thor lay on the floor pierced by Odin’s spear. Loki lay in front of him with no heart or head. Odin by the altar, a huge hole in his chest. It rose and fell as the god tried to breath. Suddenly the ground exploded and Fenrir came bustling out. The monster was huge and its yellow eyes landed upon the dying Odin. Fenrir bounded upon him and Odin cried for his spear. It pulled out of Thor’s chest with a wet sound and came flying overhead. Just as Fenrir tore Odin to pieces, the spear pierced the beast from behind. It went straight through as it had done on Loki and the beast fell over to its side. A long, sad howling filled the world as he died. Odin’s ravens landed on top of him. They cawed a sad serenade before turning into a black mist once again. A huge snake came out of the hole in the floor. Slithered over the floor and went for Thor. I passed out…
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When I came to again I was still on the floor of the church. My chest hurt like hell but I was alive. The roof of the church was gone and snow covered everything. I stood up on shaky legs. The world seemed to spin in front of my eyes and I steadied myself as I grabbed something nearby. It was something cold but soft. I looked and saw that it was a woman. Her eyes were black as tar and her skin as white as snow. She had long dark hair and a grey robe. Her face was beautiful. ‘Hello…’ I said slowly. ‘I am Hel…Valhalla has fallen…so has my father…along with my brothers: Fenrir and the Midgard serpent…’ she said in a cold voice. She pointed at the center of the church and I saw it and remembered. ‘Mankind is doomed…the hole leads to my dominion…Niflheim’ Hel said and walked up to it. Her back scared the hell out of me when I saw it. It wasn’t covered by the robe and showed nothing but a hollow tree-trunk. She looked over her shoulder, smiled her deadly smile at me, and jumped into the hole. I went up to it and here I now stand. I have seen the shapes of giants pass by the church from time to time. The question is whether to jump to my own death or wait here for one of the giants to kill me. The jump would be the easy way out but something inside me wants to survive. Should I descend into Niflheim or hide in Hodmimir’s forest…I can hear a woman yelling out there…in the forest.
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Maybe we can save each other…

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