The Valley

by Stina Edelfeldt

She had always hated the evenings. They scared her, as if they were alive, horrible monsters that looked for her, every second, in order to tell her awful secrets, which scared her more than even the monsters did. Oh, yes, she hated the evenings.

I am alone. It is raining. The raindrops are dripping on my head, running down my cheeks, falling from my chin in a never ending course. Dripping, dripping ... Beyond the rain is a cloud. A cloud from which the rain appears. It calms me down. I'm not lonesome anymore. The cloud lowers itself and gets closer to me, hesitates for a while and then, slowly, passes through me with its drops never ceasing to drip, drip down my face. Then it is over. No drops. In front of me is a lovely valley, with trees and small birds flying among the trees. I will stand here for so long, so very, very long ... until the valley changes.

It isn't an apparent change, just small differences in the scent of the wind, the shadows of the trees and the view of the whole valley. Suddenly I feel a presentiment of disease, as slight as the touch of a caressing feather. There's a feeling in the air, it comes closer, nobody could ever ... Raindrops. Where does the rain come from? I don't know. In the sight of my left eye there is a lake, a small lake, almost invisible, hidden by the trees. It shines. No motions come from its surface, it is as smooth as a mirror. I look into the mirror, raising my eyes. The glance of the burning flame catches me.

She woke up with a burning headache. Painfully she reached for the alarm clock and turned it off. The ringing didn't stop. She knit her brows and slowly sat up in the bed.

''Damn!'', she hissed. Why should she get a phone call now? Angrily she picked up the phone. ''Hello.''

''What the hell are you doing! We have been waiting for you for an hour now! Do you think that the store can manage without workers?''

''Er... I overslept ... I mean ... my head ...''

''There has been too much over sleeping that concerns you!''

''But I worked hard yesterday, until nightfall ... and I have a headache ...''

''Who hasn't had an headache? Normal persons can work anyway! Now, listen to me! If you aren't here in half an hour you can regard yourself as fired! Understood?''

''Understood, sir.'' She hung up. ''Understood.''

There was coffee left in the pot. She drank it and ate a sandwich. Fired ... Why not? Mr Owen was the worst employer she had ever met. He seemed to think that an employee's most important duty was to serve, at any rate. Of course, that rule didn't concern him, he was the eternal exception. The Master. Creep! Maybe she'd get a better job somewhere else. But she doubted it. In these days, there were no jobs available for ordinary people. So what to do? Smile and say: Yes sir! No, sir! Of course, sir! Oh, her head ached! She rose.

Outside the sky was grey. A few raindrops fell on her head and down her face. She frowned. Why did the rain always puzzle her? Not that she hated it, or that it displeased her, there was just something strange about it that she couldn't figure out. For some reason she never brought an umbrella with her in the rain. The rain puzzled her, yes, but that didn't mean she wanted to be without it.

M...m...m...maybe. Walking in the direction, moving ... Deeper down there is a valley, cold hearted, smiling. Inside the confusion is the structure of something falling to pieces that possesses me by the light, never fading, beating pulsations of my flickering heart, the endless circle. Dripping dripping, down the world. Water, oh water, lifegiver, the form of the falling, disappearing in the ocean, perfect ... perfection. Always seeking ... perfect ... prefect ... preferct ... prefer ...

By now I am listening to the darkness of the luminous world. If the fear was to cease, what would then happen to the safety? Wrecked, completely wrecked. If my window to the outside world opens, I'll see a street just like this, shining in the sunlight and preparing its old shadows to change, to always be changing. Could my voice take away the many years old memories of those not yet born, the never wasted? I don't know. Down the valley is a lake, it shines like a mirror in the sun. The reflection looks back at me. I know it, though I can't see it. When I raise my eyes it will disappear. Too certain, far too certain.

Shining lake, flickering shadows. If the light ever fades, it will control me. Valley. It's raining. I remember dreaming about it. Am I dreaming? The birds are singing. Wouldn't it be boring just to repeat what you just have said, over and over again? Now I can feel the grass under my feet. The lake has vanished. I'm still walking. Go away, you young ones! I've been in this part of the world for thousands and thousands of years. Part... party ... I was on a party ...

I was on a party in Devonshire.
You would really like it if you were there.
It's hot, it's strong, it's screaming like hell,
I've never seen the like, I can tell.
But remember just this, if you are wise,
never ask them to play with the dice.
Cause if you do, I can not guarantee,
that you'll ever return from Devonshire.

''Sir?'' The man turned round. He watched her with aversion.

''So, Janet Wilson, you're finally here. Do you think that Mr Conrad likes when his workers just don't arrive at their jobs?''

''No, sir. But I overslept ...''

''You have overslept yourself twice this month. Are you trying to beat the record?'' She got angry.

''Listen now, Mr Owen. You have no ri...''

''Just remember that there are many others who want your job.'' Her anger disappeared at that very moment. What could she do when her whole life depended on her job and her job depended on Mr Owen's temper. When she talked again, her voice was resigned.

''I understand, Mr Owen. I'll try to do better.''

''I hope so. Now, Mrs Lawson has ordered some things here, she has been waiting for a while. She's on your list, isn't she?''

''Yes, sir.''

''Well, what are you waiting for? The groceries are in the usual box. Deliver them! You have more costumers than Mrs Lawson.''

''I'm on my way, sir.'' She turned round and went up to the boxes, picked up the groceries and left the store. One day I'll kill him, she thought.

Her bike was on its normal place. It almost surprised her. Slowly she sat up and drove off. Cycling was the best part of her job. None bothered her. Free and uncatchable she rode down the streets. It was wonderful. If only she could ride here forever and never reach her destination. But she had to, there was nothing to do about it. Nothing at all. She sighed and lent her head back. A raindrop fell on her forehead.

Kr...r...r...r...r...r...r...r... raaasch... If I would drive right into that wall, what would happen? You know, water has always interfered in my life with the size of a enormous bear. For so long I've been waiting for the world to change into a new form. My wings are tied. They have been enable to move for so very long that I have forgotten how to use them. The water disintegrate the rope, how wonderful the hint of freedom feels. The senses fool me, can't they do better? I have to follow the rain, follow it down the valley. Oh, the valley! Shining sunlight, wonderful trees covered with green leaves. The scent of life fills me with a strength that not can be described. I am the center of the valley, the center of the world, yet the world doesn't care. I'm traveling towards the lake, not able to look back. I've never been able to do that.

Down by the lake I hesitate for a moment, then I clench my fists and step out on the water. Below me is the lake, a depth I know nothing about, still I ain't afraid. But I do not dare to lower my eyes and look down for if I do, the lake may decide to swallow me and draw me down, down into a new existence, an unknown existence. The other shore is near now. Could there be a chance that I'll reach it before sunset? Yet, I have no knowledge of what the lake will look like at night. The thought scares me. I begin to run, the shore comes closer and closer. So, finally, I throw myself down into the sand, just before the water begins to touch me. I pant. How dreadful a jail can seem to you, if you're watching it from the inside. The cloud lowers itself, it relieves me.

''Hello, Mrs Lawson. I'm here with your goods.'' The old lady looked suspiciously at her. Her eyes got narrower, which made her look like an old snake, ready to bite.

''I hope the sausage is better than it was two days ago. They can't make sausage like they used to when I was young.''

''I'm sorry madam, but I can't answer for that, I'm just the deliverer.''

''Well, well, but you have a responsibility for not fooling people. You should be more alert, girl. That's your duty to the society.'' If only she had dared to wring that awful snakelike head with its greedy eyes off! But she only smiled against the woman.

''I hope this sausage will satisfy you, madam. It's the best I could get.''

''We'll see about that.'' The woman took the goods from the deliverer. She glanced at her, searching. ''We'll see ...'' The door closed. Janet stood there for a while, looking at the door. Then she turned round and hurried down the stairs. Mrs Lawson was one of the worst. Who was next? She looked at the list. Mr Will! Oh no! Not him as well! Couldn't she at least be spared from that? But ''there is no escape from the duties of life''. Who said that? Probably Mr Owen. She looked up at the sky. Was it raining? A drop fell on her head.

And now I am down in a dungeon from which I cannot escape to a new dwelling in another kind of space where I am none to reckon with. Too awful, dreadful, isn't it? Ah, the screaming of spring in the air is like when my wings increase their speed so that they can fly away from earth. Down the soil in the ground the volcanos begin to burn the outermost tips of my nails. Maybe the trees will help me understand to develop that new form of existence that I in my former life is bound to live in. Schrecklich! Ich bin ja ein ge... nice girl who never has traveled further than I am traveling now. Too bad! The road turns into a valley. I've seen it before. If you ask me, it's most beautiful at night in the shining moonlight. But I have never seen it at night. Oh, I'm afraid of the face of the lake, yet it fascinates me. Can't the birds stop singing! My head aches!

''Mr Will?'' He opened the door slightly. She could see how he hesitated. Then, suddenly, he drew her through the open door into the house.

''Come in! Quickly!'' She heard the door close behind her.

''Please, Mr Will!''

''Be silent. I don't like sunlight, that's all. Give me the groceries.'' The first time she had met Mr Will had been terrifying. By now she was used to him. ''You're late. You should have been here an hour ago.''

''I'm sorry. I overslept myself.'' The man mumbled something to himself.

''I'm tired of waiting. I've been waiting all my life. It was long ago something but the sunlight frightened me. But you don't know anything about that, do you?''

''No, sir, I believe I don't.''

''That's because it doesn't hate you. It doesn't like when people try to defeat it. That's why it hates me, I refuse to resign and surrender.'' He watched her. Suddenly he laughed. ''Do not try to understand me. Only one who has been in a similar situation can do that. There is more in the world that you can see, girl.'' He shook his head slowly. ''Go now. And close the door carefully behind you.''

When she stood outside on the stairs she felt strange. He had confused her. Of course he was a maniac but yet there was something ... No, she couldn't put her finger on it. She sighed. The mystery of Mr Will was still unsolved.

Her next customers were an old man and his wife. They were always happy to see her.

''Please come in! You look tired. Do you want some coffee?'' She smiled at the woman.

''Thanks. It's very kind of you. I've had an awful day.'' She went into the kitchen and sat down by the table.

''It must be hard to ride a bicycle on a day like this, when it's raining. You could catch a cold, you know.''

''It ain't that bad. I like rain.'' The woman poured up the coffee in a cup and placed it in front of her.

''One or two lumps of sugar?''

''Two, please.'' She lent back. If only all people could be like these two! That would help her so much. The job would be no trouble at all. Most of her customers just took their tools almost without a word. Those you could stand. But some of them were like Mrs Lawson and Mr Will. They were awful. Finally there were the ''kind'' people, like the ones she was with now. She drank the black coffee slowly. A pleasure!

Later, when she was on her way back to the store to get some more tools, she was fortified and felt like she would be able to handle the rest of the day. Was it really raining? Only a few drops fell on her head and made her hair wet.

W...waiting. There is no use. Why should it be? If the darkest lightening of a black sun can be a threat to her, what can't? Maybe the rain which is falling on my head. Lifegiver, you dream about the truth, and the truth isn't what you're going to see. In the dark it is easy to pretend, that the truth is what it ought to be. Still there might be something I can learn. So about the valley. I see it. The birds have stopped singing. Why is it so silent? I'm walking along the beach, looking out over the water. Something has changed, the clouds are waiting. The lake hides its secret from me, the face won't look into my eyes. No wind is blowing. I can feel the absence of it. Everything is waiting, so painfully. The extermination shouldn't be getting closer. Is it? Maybe the answer isn't as far away as I think it is. So the depth hides my story. Unfortunately I know it is true. But I cannot look at the face in the water.

Go to hell! Variable minds! Flying though their wings are tied. I'm not surprised they are falling. If only I could remember where I have hidden the keys to the chains. Long ago I discovered the time to change, the time to develop, the time of creation. I guess the debts never will be paid. Sequences of forgotten years, how they amuse me. Very funny, there is none else to hide. But hiding could prevent the most frightening development of speech. So.

Something is happening. The valley looks different, the lake is silent. Then, suddenly, I can see what's happening. The sun is setting. Far away I can see a shimmer that comes from the raising moon. Night. Nightfall. The valley at night. No. I cannot. There is no way out but to run. So I do. I do not look back. The moon in the sky. The face in the lake.

At the end of the day she was almost finished with all her deliveries. She had only one customer left. Unfortunately that customer lived out in the woods so she had to ride a long way to get to her.The customer was a lonesome woman who she knew nothing about. She had never been near the place before.

She knocked at the door. For a moment nothing happened but then, without a warning, the door open. She stared into the face of a middle-aged women, looking at her with a pair of piercing eyes.

''Miss Mason? I have a packet for you.'' The women nodded. Then she smiled.

''Come in. Rest for a moment. It's a long way out here.''

''Thank you.'' She went inside. The room she entered was big and common. Too common. A table at the window, a sofa by the wall, three carpets on the floor and two chairs by the table. On the wall there was a few paintings with motives from the village and the country. She couldn't see any personal details anywhere.

''Please sit down. People seldom visit me. I wouldn't mind talking for a while.'' Miss Mason sat down beside her. For some reason that made her feel uneasy.

''Here is your packet, madam.'' She handed it over.

''Thank you. I've been waiting for this. It's a book, you see.'' The woman smiled at her. For a moment her eyes got narrower. Then she said, quietly: ''It's hard to understand the valley, isn't it?'' Janet stared at her. Was she crazy?

''Excuse me, what do you mean?'' But the women continued smiling.

''I recognized you as soon as you entered the door. I just wanted to be sure.''

''I ... I think I have to go now. I have work to do.''

''You've got time. I know that. You see, there is more in the world than you think it is. Right now you are in danger. The sun is setting. For you it's the first time. That could be terrifying. I believe you're going very fast. Maybe too fast without help.'' Janet felt more and more uneasy. Obviously the woman was mad, but ... there was something she ... remembered, like a long ago forgotten dream which suddenly was remembered again. Strange, so very strange ...

''What ... what are you doing?'' The woman's eyes were hypnotic, they seemed to swallow her.

''I think ... this!'' Mrs Mason picked up the cup. She splashed the last few drips right into Janet's face.

Drrrrrrrriipp! Unforgotten years. Hidden ... I'm lonesome in the never ceasing tunnel. How to get out? Impossible. Everything ... so clear. It has never been so clear before. The walls are so very black, sometimes I wonder if they're hiding the sunlight from me. My wings are useless down here under the ground. If only the chains ... Never to forget the rules, they are the only things you can rely upon in this crazy world. But now I think the tunnel is disappearing. Yes, finally. There is the valley, I'm back again. Under my feet the green grass tickle my toes. I can see the trees bow themselves to the wind. My heart beats very hard now. So, slowly, I look up. The sun is setting. The sun is setting ...

Afraid! Want to go out of here! Don't want to see the nightfall! Afraid! A... Please calm down. You have to go through this. What! Who are you? You know who I am. A helper. Follow me. You're stronger than you believe. Where are we going? Down to the lake. No! Don't you want to see the face? Not now! Not at moonlight! The moon isn't up yet, is it? No but ...

I will never get out of my chains. Or will I? I take the hand. It's warm and caring. The lake is getting closer. I remember walking over it. That isn't hard to do. No, not when you've done it. That was an admirable thing to do. Was it? Yes. Look at the lake. Isn't it wonderful! Forgotten is the dream of delusion, feel it now! You see, it's never been brighter. Come, follow me!

Around me a catastrophe, giant suns interfering ... About the endless search for some hidden childhood I have nothing to say. You control me too much, I have to walk by myself. When I was a little nestling I hid under my mother's wings. Now when I am older, I still cannot use my own. Please never untie me! You must loosen my chains! The key! I want it! But you have it. Have I? It will be there whenever you ask for it. But how? Just trust yourself, that's how. Just trust yourself. Trust myself? Nothing could be harder. But you trusted yourself when you walked on the water, didn't you? But that was different. Was it? Yes, I know about the lake. But you do not dare to face it, is that knowing? I ... I believe it isn't. You mean, I could do it myself? None else can. Try.

Try? Am I worthy? Trusting? If I go deeper ... Oh, there is confusion under my skin in an endless circle of mankind. To a fool? Never! But there are no fools. Scream. Fear. But nothing else. So strange. No, even if the inside of me is cold and evil there is nothing more to fear. Sequences ... Deep ... How to walk when you cannot crawl. I'm getting closer ... closer is the word I've been looking for. A lake looks likes a circle from above. Does a circle have eyes? Yet I'm fond of cheese because it's yellow and circle-like. For no reason at all I will sing for you a song. But I think it will wait until we get inside. So, what about the deadly weapons that you brought me the other day? Shall I throw them out or do you want me to keep them until next time? But I think I learnt a better truth when I was on my holiday yesterday summer. As I was there my morning star began to bloom and the will of my last friend was remembered. I think that is a day to remember. But unfortunately I haven't got time to find out. Everything is moving, I can hear the tears fall down, down lowering themselves. How marvelous! So many friends here this evening. I never dreamt that so many would come. But who are you? A forgotten dream. A thought never brought to life. A tree ...

The trees watch me. They know something will happen. I can hear my heart beat and my breaths echo in the wind. But we're close to the lake now. No more regrets. It's now. Come, let me show you. There's is nothing to be afraid of. Learn. I am afraid. I know. That's natural. Look, the moon is raising.

I can see the moon. I hear my heart. I hear the grass grow. I hear the leaves fall, every bird I know, my voice is clear, the rain is coming and I lower my eyes ... I lower my eyes and look at the face in the lake. Our eyes meet. I can see. I know. I am.

I am.

''Goodbye, Mrs Mason. Nice meeting you. Thanks for the coffee.''

''You're welcome. It was nothing, really.'' The woman smiled. Then she reached her hand out. Without a word Janet shook it. She felt the warmth of the hand in her whole body. The women's eyes met. They smiled. Around them the rain was pouring down, like the streams of a released spring flood.

LSFF:s hemsida