Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Absalom, 7

Cardinal Ernst von Henckelman was in a rather somber mood this evening at the palazzo, just outside of Rome. He had poured himself a quite liberal drink of Napoleonic Cognac and was puffing on a Ramon Allones Specially Selected while enjoying the comfort of a leather armchair in the library. In his lap, was a huge tome, which he opened and begun reading the ancient history of the Order. It was a matter of doing things the way they had always been done; borderline superstition. He had read the same chapter of the tome on every evening he had sent someone out on a quest to fight the powers of darkness. As had his predecessor and his before him, all through the ages.

For the Order was old. As old as the Church, most of his order-brethren would say. But the fact of the matter was that without the Order, there would be no Church. Actually, with almost complete certainty, there wouldn’t be much of anything anyone would care about on the darkened, scorched, remains of God’s green Earth. Von Henckelman read the pages very slowly, taking in every word on its own, every sentence in its structure and every paragraph in its truest form. For this Tome spoke the truth. It spoke of worlds colliding in Chaos, monsters rising from utmost darkness, humanity being lifted up from ignorance and the foundation of the Order. An Order with a mission so simple, yet complicated, that it would never be completed; at least not until the end of the world. And that was it. That was the true mission of the order. To stave off the end of the world as everyone knows it and keep the Powers of Darkness at bay. Regular people, or Lambs as he thought of them, would never know of the eternal struggle that was fought beyond their sight, even beyond their understanding or comprehension. For the legends were true; almost all of them, to a much larger degree than almost anyone could ever imagine: St George had really slain a Dragon, Oedipus a Cyclops and Van Helsing had finally bested Count Dracula. These beasts weren’t only the stuff of stories to be read by the light the bedside lamp or used to scare children at campfires. They were real, and if the Order did what it was supposed to do, no-one would ever be any the wiser. Then parents all around the world would be completely right when they assured their children that there weren’t any monsters hiding under their beds or in their closets.

That’s why the Order had the Archangels. Men like Absalom David; men who were their first line of defense against the powers of Darkness. Men without any family but the Order, who would most likely lose their lives in the struggle, men who would be missed by no-one when they did so; their final resting place more often than not, an unmarked grave in a far-away place. Von Henckel slowly started reading the names of the Archangels who had fallen through the years, for here they would not be forgotten. He silently hoped that he wouldn’t have to add another to the already far too long list. No man should have to bury his own son, the saying went. And the Archangels were his sons, each and every one of them; though not in blood, then in spirit.

The cigar had burnt down to a small stub in the ashtray, the glass of cognac untouched on the table beside him. It was always the same; even after so many years, it was always the same.

The Cardinal rose from his chair, put the tome on its proper place at a reading table, blew out a candle and slowly walked towards the Chapel of the palazzo where he was going to spend the night in prayer: praying for the safe return of his Archangel.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Absalom, 6

He stood on the tarmac, two large handcrafted suitcases, a carryon and a carefully rolled package beside him and waited for his pickup to arrive. Deciding to make use of this moment of unexpected solitude he opened the package, revealing a close to one meter long sword in a scabbard. He went through his carryon, finding his ever-present whetstone and began sharpening the thousands-layered blade. Being pleased with his work, he slid the sword back into the scabbard and opened one of the suitcases. Browsing through the assortment of luggage they had packed for him, he finally found a plastic case close to the bottom of the suitcase and took it out. It contained a pair of Glock 18.s and plenty of 33 round 9mm jacketed hollow point magazines. Realizing that he probably had some time for them too, he took a seat on his other suitcase and set about wiping them.

“Where was that friggin pickup?” he thought, while polishing the glowing black harbingers of death.

A few minutes later, he saw a beat up, dented old Volvo rolling towards him across the private landing section of Kastrup Airport. Recognizing the scrapheap from the video the Cardinal had shown him, he put the guns back in the case, closed the suitcase, rolled up the sword and rose to meet his welcoming party.

The party consisted of one man in his mid-twenties. He looked a typical Swede; rather tall, with scruffy blond hair and blue eyes, wearing a black sweatshirt, worn jeans and sneakers that had lost most of their earlier whiteness. “Clearly not a man with a higher understanding of fashion,” Absalom thought. The Swede jumped out of the car, apologizing for his lateness; blaming it on a misunderstanding with airport security. He then took one suitcase in each arm and put them into the boot of the Volvo, leaving Absalom with the carryon and repackaged sword. Having put all of the bags into the car, the man extended his hand for a formal greeting, introducing himself as Lars Laurent.

“Absalom David,” Absalom replied and felt the strength of the man’s grip while shaking hands. “So where are we going?” he continued after they had taken their seats, with Lars slowly trying to turn the tank-like Volvo station wagon around, among the multi-million Euro private jets.

Managing to get them in the right direction without any collisions, Lars set about explaining what the next steps were. First they were to spend the night in Lund, a university town not far across the Swedish border, where they’d set him up at a small hotel. The next day, they had arranged to visit Castle Månskära, which is where the infestation had manifested itself. The Castle was open for the public, so they would simply have a walkabout as regular visitors, enjoying a fine spring weekend. While speaking about their coming plans, they first drove into a tunnel under the Öresund Straight, then came up on the Öresund Bridge, which linked the two former arch-enemies. It was late on a Friday afternoon, with traffic being plentiful on the bridge, but wile Lars kept in the right lane, Absalom chose instead to admire the spectacular view over the flatlands of Själland and Skåne.

Half an hour later, they parked the car at an underground garage underneath the train station and again, Lars nimbly grabbed both of the suitcases, leaving Absalom rather sheepish with just the carryon and the roll. They crossed a street, turned a corner and had in five minutes reached the hotel Gustav where he was to stay for the night. The hotel was a quaint little city-hotel, set in an old, one story stone-building with only a few rooms. The concierge, a trim woman in her late forties, welcomed them with a wide smile and open arms, helped them check in and showed them to his room. Lars then took his leave, promising to be back at ten the next morning.

Absalom took a look around his home for the next few days; a double bed, desk and wardrobe, all in the typical strict style that is accustomed to the Scandinavians. Whites and earthen colors dominated the room, with even the carpet – oriental as it seemed – having been woven in similar tones. The bathroom was similarly styled, all in white tiles and stainless steel, with a Philip Starck WC and sink.

He took a quick shower, cleaning himself of the journey and got dressed; this time a pale blue tailor made shirt, accompanied by black slacks. Yet again feeling proper, he set about unpacking properly. He decided against carrying his guns with him, rather letting

Friday, November 13, 2009

Absalom, 5

The journey to Campino was just as uneventful as one might expect when driving through Rome in the middle of a weekday; traffic aplenty with Vespas zipping through traffic like they owned the road. His driver apparently had some skill and experience with Roman traffic and spent most of the drive continuing the interrupted discussion about football, even once in a while throwing a question or statement back towards the back seat. Absalom gave them some non-answers, having decided he wasn’t going to be mocked for his good taste in teams, by these Polentone. Actually, he wasn’t even Italian, but having had Rome as home base for as long as he had, it was the only home he had. Now, if he only managed to persuade the Cardinal to give him a palazzo of his own, he’d have nothing to complain about.

The car pulled past the normal parking spaces of Campino Airport, barely stopping to show the security guards their badges and pulled onto the private part of the runway. While most air-traffic into Rome had been redirected to the Leonardo da Vinci at Fiumicino, the Church still kept its fleet of smaller planes here since it was closer to the Vatican. They pulled up next to a Gulfstream V, a stewardess with a gorgeous face, trim body and long legs, waiting outside. “They must be in a real hurry since they didn’t stick me with Easy Jet,” he thought to himself. He stepped out of the SUV and smiled towards the gorgeous blonde. She smiled back, her teeth perfectly white, said that his luggage was already on board and they were ready to leave. He jestingly offered her his arm, she accepted, and together they boarded the plane.

She led him towards a wide and comfortable leather seat, where she already had put a bottle of Krug Rosé in a silver ice bucket. “Man, this is going to be a good trip. I might as well enjoy it for as long as it lasts”, he thought as he stretched out in the seat, letting his eyes wander all over the stewardess who was closing the door. Noticing she had left two glasses by the bucket, he poured champagne into them both and offered her to join him for a pre-flight toast. She smilingly agreed and took a seat opposite him, instead of one of the standard crew seats.

They chatted for few minutes, while the plane was pulled out onto the tarmac and the pilot did his pre-flight checks. Before long, though, they were in the air. The flight was only going to take about two hours, so even though he really wanted to chat up the beautiful blonde, he had to get some work done. Excusing himself, she stood and walked forward into the crew area, her back and hips moving seductively. “Maybe I can try to get a few days in Copenhagen with her, once this business is done”, he figured as he picked up his PDA from the seat pocket.

He opened his e-mail program and downloaded the information the Order had sent him. There were two attachments; the Video he had already seen and a PDF-document. He opened the PDF and started reading it. First there was a geographical description of where he was going; Skåne, the southernmost part of Sweden, was apparently mostly flatland and rolling hills, farmer’s fields and forest. He’d never been to Sweden before, having spent most of his adult life in the southern parts of Europe, with a few visits to the southern and eastern part of the Mediterranean. It struck him quite odd that he was the most suitable Archangel for this mission, considering he didn’t know a lick of Swedish or anything else about it for that matter. Actually, the only thing he did know about Scandinavia, was what he had learnt from a very friendly Danish girl he’d got to know a few summers ago. “No time to let the mind wander…” he thought as he returned to the briefing.

The next chapter was the report from the Bishop. It didn’t look to be very special and didn’t contain any of the normal watch-words; the Bishop was then not part of the Order. It was mostly hyperbole about the video and how this should be interpreted as the coming of Armageddon. Pretty much what a Lamb would write when confronted with the existence of the Powers of Darkness. He couldn’t blame the Bishop, but still found it rather amusing, considering what he knew about the matter at hand.

Next came the interesting part. This part was written by the Deacon and he seemed to be much more in the know regarding the workings of the Order and its struggle. He had managed to locate the outbreak at the lands of an old but still inhabited castle in the middle of Skåne with his only suspects being the landed gentry who still lived there. Their name was “af Mååndag” and they had owned the land since the early middle ages, apparently managing to hold on to their lands even when the region had gone from Danish to Swedish hands. The report described the current lord of the land as a very reputable farmer in the region; happily married for twenty years to a local talent, two teenage children who both attended boarding schools, a couple of dogs and cats and he even drove a newish Bentley. He couldn’t become much more of a landed Nobleman if he tried.

The last thing in the report was a notification that the Deacon was going to pick him up in Copenhagen; it did however not mention if he was going to do it in that beat up Volvo. If he was, Absalom was going to add to his expense account by renting something more proper.

Basically, what the report came down to, was that there had been a zombie outbreak in the middle of a farming region and the only suspect were a couple of Lambs who probably weren’t aware of what was going on. So this was why the Cardinal didn’t want to send in the Potestas. Well, the least he could do was pay them a visit and see for himself before he’d go on to cleanse the local graveyard where the zombies had come from. And if he was lucky, he’d be able to add a few notches to his belt while at it. “Not a complete waste of time”.

The stewardess gently knocked him on the shoulder and told him they were about to land. He put down the PDA and offered her another glass of champagne, which she delightfully accepted, yet again taking her place opposite him in the plane. The plane landed without any problems at all; probably still on autopilot for all he knew and he rose to grab his luggage from the overhead compartment. He said his farewells to the stewardess with a kiss on the cheek and said that he hoped he would have the chance to meet her again before long. Agreeing with his words, she walked with him out of the plane, wishing him a safe stay wherever he was going.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Absalom, 4

He followed the Cardinal through the grand hallway and out on a balcony, where a servant had already set up a light lunch for them. On the table was an antipasta platter with fresh seafood and in season vegetables, accompanied by a crystal decanter of white wine. The Cardinal took his seat at the table and started browsing the platter for what he wanted, while Absalom strolled towards the railing of the balcony and enjoyed the view: the Eternal City stretching out in all its glory in the far off background, rolling hills and small villages surrounded by farmer’s fields nearer by and the meticulously tended garden - set up in a style reminding him of the Boboli Gardens in Florence, or even the Parc de Versailles – in the foreground. Truly a magnificent view, most befitting a renaissance Nobleman. Which it probably had was, a few hundred years ago.

He joined the cardinal at the table, helped himself of the food and poured a glass of wine. The tableware seemed to be Venetian Murano; as always the Cardinal outdid himself with luxury. “He wouldn’t have survived two weeks in a Franciscan monastery,” he thought, with a smirk. He sampled the wine, finding it to be a bit sweet to his liking; yet again very suitable for the Cardinal with his sweet tooth. Having tasted the food and the wine, he lifted his eyes to the Cardinal, nodding for him to begin with the matter at hand.

The old man finished his bite, wiped the corner of his mouth with the ornamented linen napkin and begun talking. “It’s moments like these; a marvelous meal on a beautiful spring day, that make it all worth it. I’m always sending people out into the unknown facing God know what; with never enough information on what is going on and who might be responsible.” He twirled the wine in the glass, thoroughly enjoying sip, before going on. “As you saw in the video, we have a new zombie outbreak. That much is clear.”

“That much is clear,” Absalom repeated the words and took another bite from his plate.

“The video was filmed by one of ours. We had heard rumor about strange things going on and stationed him as a Deacon in a congregation in southern Sweden. While he is a capable fact-finder, what comes next is way above what he can handle.”

“So why not send in the Archangels to scorch them?” Absalom said, in between bites.

“This is not a matter to be handled by their rather heavy hands. It needs to be looked into further so we may find out if there is a new Gate about to open, or if this is simply a matter of an estranged someone who has managed to dibble in the dark secrets of the Necronomicon. That’s what we need you to find out. Also, if possible, please rid us of the Zombies before their presence is noticed by the Lambs.”

“Speaking of the Lambs, how come the local press hasn’t picked up on this yet? How much time do I have before the six o’clock news start referring to the Night of the Living Dead?”

“We already have a team of Shepherds on the ground, working on that angle. But as you said yourself, time is on the essence and we need for you to leave for Copenhagen as soon as possible. All the data we have has already been uploaded into your PDA and there’s a plane waiting at Campiano. I’ve also taken the liberty of sending some of my staff to your apartment to pack what you may need; they will meet you at the airport.”

“I guess this means my vacation is over?” Absalom said, while finishing the last of his food.

“I wouldn’t be too worried about that,” the Cardinal replied and then added with a smile on his face. “Hopefully, this will be a quick job, giving you plenty of time to play with your bambina when you return.”

“Speaking of her, please tell your staff to knock before barging in to pack.”

Absalom rose from the table and the two men said their goodbyes; the old man giving the younger man his blessing on his ventures into the unknown. Absalom left the Cardinal on the balcony and made his way back to the front of the palace, out the double doors and found his two escorts waiting by the SUV. They seemed to be in the middle of a discussion about who would win the Serie A in a few weeks time, with one hailing Inter and the other going for Juve. It didn’t make a lick of difference for him, just as long as Lazio would manage a European spot.

He cleared his throat loud enough to get their attention and one of them opened the back seat for him while the other got in up front and started the engine. Retaking his seat, he leaned back and relaxed as the car drove back towards Rome, heading for Campiano and whatever might await him when he got to Scandinavia.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Absalom, 3

He remained standing, holding the back of the visitor’s chair. Knowing the Cardinal as well as he did, he imagined he had cut a bit of the front legs, making the seemingly very comfortable leather seat much more unpleasant for the unknowing visitor. Before answering the question, he looked around the room. As always with the Church, he was pleasantly surprised by the mixture of ancient and modern: a medieval crucifix hung on a wall next to a 50” plasma screen; a renaissance bookshelf next to a printer. Old mixed with new; maybe they should take that perspective on certain rules in the Church as well?

He turned back towards the Cardinal, who looked at him expectantly, arms crossed over his chest, hiding the gold crucifix he had in a chain around his neck. But just as the Cardinal was about to repeat the question, he said:

“To be frank, I haven’t got a clue. I thought we’d banned them for at least a few years since we managed to close that last Gate?”

The Cardinal leaned forward and moved his arms towards the keyboard and mouse of the computer that had finished booting. Mumbling a non-audible reply, he started picking the keyboard and clicking the mouse in a slow but certain manner, finally managing to bring a picture onto the plasma, giving them both a chance to see what was there. What was displayed was a map of what seemed to be somewhere in northern Europe, his guess was Scandinavia based upon the weird looking city names and presence of squiggles over the o’s and a´s.

“You know perfectly well, Absalom, that this is a war that is never over.” The Cardinal said in a grave voice. “The Church has been fighting the powers of Darkness since the beginning, and we are only one part of the struggle. The Jews have fought for thousands of years longer than us and the Moslems struggle equally. We must be eternally vigilant, for the powers of Darkness always seek access.”

“So what you’re saying is that there’s a new Gate? A new place for the Demon hoards to enter the realm of mankind?” He said in hyperbole. “A new place for me to get covered in grime and goo, most of it hopefully not mine. Is that what you’re saying?” He wasn’t particularly pleased with this. He knew that whenever the Cardinal brought up ancient history and eternal vigilance, he had a trip to somewhere nasty in his near future.

“To be perfectly truthful, we’re not sure what we’re up against.” The Cardinal said
“Oh, how friggin grand!” Absalom spat out. This was going to get even better…
“We’ve received a disturbing report from the Bishop of Sweden,” the Cardinal went on. ”Apparently very strange things are taking place out in the southern countryside. Things we believe you are most suited to handling.”

“But why don’t you send out someone from the Clergy first?” He wondered. “There’s not much use in telling me to hope on a plane to… Stockholm? And then head out into the countryside looking for weird stuff to chop and grind. There has to be someone else who can confirm or deny this report.”

“Oh, yes there is,” was the reply. “Please take a look at this video we received along with the report.” That said, the Cardinal once again started clicking with the mouse and brought up a video on the plasma.

Absalom turned towards the plasma, not knowing what to expect from the video. What he did know, was that this had to be something special, especially since he hadn’t even been offered an espresso yet.

The video started mostly dark, with the only light fixture being the flashlight of the cameraman that didn’t really light up anything more than a few meters straight ahead. The setting seemed to be an untended meadow, long grass and small rocks abound on the ground. For a few minutes nothing much happened, mostly darkness, grass and rocks. All he could be sure of was that the cameraman was noticeably nervous, the camera shaking to and fro, making it very hard to see what was going on. Then all of a sudden they heard a moaning sound, coming from somewhere not too distant. A grunting moan; it sounded rather like a deer buck in heat, calling forth a challenger for the doe he wanted to mount. As the cameraman closed in on the sound he realized he’d been way off in his guess, for this was no deer. The moan sounded like something almost human, but the language escaped him. He turned with a quizzical look towards the Cardinal who only nodded towards the screen, insisting he keep on watching. The video moved still closer towards the moaning sound and he noticed the light had somewhat improved; the moon must’ve come out from behind the clouds. He saw what looked to be something bipedal stumbling about in the distance, much too small and skinny to be anything but a humanoid. As the video moved closer, the cameraman shook even more than before, and it suddenly struck him.

“Zombies!?” he burst out.

“Just keep watching,” the clergyman answered and yet again nodded towards the plasma.

The video had almost closed in on the humanoids and now there was no doubt in his mind that these were actually images of the living dead. The lowest form of undead that for some reason every Necromancer and Devil worshiper loved to bring forth upon God’s Earth. The video showed more and more of the creatures stumbling about on the field, but for some strange reason they hadn’t yet noticed the photographer. Then, all of a sudden, like a dog finding the smell of a treat, they turned towards the man taking the footage, and started out on a slow but lethal march towards him, always mumbling the same unintelligible word. Having been noticed, the cameraman started running frantically in the opposite direction with the camera bouncing up and down, mostly showing the ground, leaving the living dead in the distance. The last frames of the video pictured an old dented Volvo station wagon towards which the man was running.

With the video now complete, the plasma returned to the background image, displaying the Lord Savior hanging on the Cross. The Cardinal turned off the screen and rose from chair.

“What do you say we discuss this matter over a light lunch? I have recently come in possession of a really good Malvasia, it’s from a small vineyard not far from here.” Not waiting for a reply, he walked out of the office, expecting Absalom to follow.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Absalom, 2

Waiting for his pickup to arrive, he gazed over the Piazza and ended with the balcony where the Holy Father himself stood when addressing his flock. He hadn’t had time to attend his latest sermon, which tore some at his conscience. Not that much though, considering what he’d been doing at the time, but still he felt a pang of guilt about it.

“Well, he thought, hopefully I’ll be in town for the next one.”

He saw a black BMW X5 with tinted windows pull onto the square. The few tourists there gave it strange looks since it was supposed to be a no-driving zone, which didn’t seem to be an issue for the driver nor the Swiss Guards who stood strategically placed around the piazza. The driver stopped the car at the bottom of the stairs and he walked down them towards it. A very large man, dressed in a black suit with a bulge under his armpit, stepped out of the front passenger seat, opened the right back door and nodded to him to get in. He stepped in, took his seat on the soft leather, strapped his belt and then without a word spoken, the driver took off.

Still no words spoken, the driver steered the car swiftly through the morning traffic and headed out on the circular A90, then switching northwards and out of Rome on the A1. He let his mind wander as the surroundings first became poorer and poorer, and then changed into fields and forests. His thoughts drifted back to the young lady who probably still lay fast asleep in his bed under his Egyptian cotton linen. He really wouldn’t have minded having an extra day off to explore her yet again, but as always, business came first. So when his phone had rung at five he’d only had time for a quick shower, trim and that glass of Evian on the balcony. Surely, his so called employer could wait that long. Especially since he’d arranged this drive to God knows where instead of meeting him at a nice trattoria at lovely piazza, where they’d been able to enjoy their espresso and discuss the vices or virtues of female fashion. At least as foreplay until the inevitable scolding he always got.

“We’re here,” the large brute in the passenger seat said and opened his door. He quickly got back from his daydreaming and stepped out of the vehicle and took a look around. They had parked in front of a renaissance palace in impeccable condition, with the surrounding garden meticulously tended. Two gardeners were already out and about, one tending to the roses blossoming in front of the palace and the other trimming a hedge in the likeness of a, unicorn? Why hadn’t anyone ever told him about this place? It absolutely beat the crawlspace they offered him in Rome. He definitely needed to inquire about it the next time they wanted to talk about his wages. Also, the palace looked easily defendable with at least 50 meters of clear space in every direction, at least from what he could see while still standing by the SUV.

“Figlio mio, I’m so glad you’re finally here!”

He looked up at the entrance and walking out of the door, came an elderly gentleman wearing a black cassock trimmed in scarlet. The elderly man stopped in front of the stairs, making him walk up them to him, then reached out his hand for him to kiss the ring. Done with protocol he burst out in a big smile and gave him a bear hug. For all of his elderly looks and all gray hair, the Cardinal was still a bear of a man. He led him through the massive double oak doors, with the bronze letters “Letum Nullus Finis” hanging above them. They entered an anteroom with a massive staircase swirling up to the second store. On the walls hung tapestries depicting heroic knights slaying gargantuan monsters, and on both sides of the stairs stood models in medieval armor; one holding a massive two handed sword and the other a morning star in hand. He really couldn’t resist becoming impressed and took a few seconds to take in the scenery of the tapestries. The monsters looked to be everything from mighty Dragons to hoards of Zombies, the gallant Knights always opposing them, with a big red cross on their armour.

“It goes back a long way…” he mumbled, mostly to himself.

“Indeed it does my son”, said the Cardinal. “Throughout the ages we’ve always had to stand up against the Darkness in the world, banning it to where it belongs.”

The Cardinal then took off up the stairs, beckoning him to join him on his walk. Walking up the grand staircase he couldn’t help wondering just how old and expensive the thick red carpet that covered it was. Probably as old as most of the other things in the grand palace; priceless furniture and ornaments from throughout the ages. Upstairs he gazed upon another grand hallway, this one also covered in tapestries depicting the eternal battle between the Light and Darkness, but it also had several gilded baroque waiting chairs and a grand oak table, big enough to seat a large host.

They passed through the hallway into a smaller office, where the Cardinal took his seat behind a suitably old desk, booted up his computer and said with his voice now in a much more serious tone:

“You know why we yet again have called upon you?”

Monday, November 09, 2009

Absalom, 1

It looked like it was going to be another beautiful spring day in the Eternal City. The sun rose slowly through the morning mist into a blue sky crystal clear above him. He looked down on the still almost empty streets, with only a few early birds like him milling about. Mostly people heading for jobs where if they did it right, no one would think about them having done it. People like janitors, garbage men, maids and cleaners. People like him.

He stood from the chair, emptied his glass of Evian and walked in from the balcony. Passing through his bedroom he slowed down to cast a quick glance at the woman still sleeping in his bed. It had been a most pleasant night; she in her early twenties and eager to please. He, a bit older than that, but then more experienced. He couldn't really remember her name, but since she would with all certainty be gone when he returned, he didn't care all that much. Still, he silently walked up to the bed and kissed her on her cheek. With a last look at her delightful body stretched out only partially covered by the sheets, he pulled them up over her and left the room. She didn’t even stir.

He took a long look at himself in the grand hallway mirror. It was a full body mirror in a golden baroque type frame and it gave him a perfect view of himself from top to toe. A view of a tall, well built muscular man in his early thirties with bronzed skin cropped black hair and meticulously groomed three day stubble; dressed in a monogrammed tailor made white shirt and accompanying beige slacks. The momentary distraction complete, he turned from the mirror, reached for and slipped on his handcrafted brown sandals and walked out the door. He jogged down the stairs, gave the already arrived doorman a courtesy nod and headed out on the Via di Monte Giordano.

Walking down the almost empty street towards the Tiber he stopped by a hole in the wall type trattoria and joined a few of his fellow early birds for an espresso and a quick glance at today’s Gazetto Dello Sport. It looked like Lazio had lost another game in the Serie A, this time against Bari. “Mierda”, he thought as he drained his cup and walked back out on the street. “Looks like the old glory days won’t be back this season either”. He walked briskly as the Via di Monte Giordano turned into the Via di Panico and then skipped through traffic to get across the Tiber at Ponte Sant’Angelo.

He cast a quick glance up at the Castel Sant’Angelo and couldn’t resist smiling as he thought about the legends, rumors and stories that had been told about it. It had only been a couple of years since a knuckleheaded American had decided to make it the secret headquarters of some secret cabal or other, the Illuminati he seemed to remember. “If they only knew… if they only knew”, he thought to himself. Now having turned onto the Via della Conziliazione he saw his final destination tower up a few hundred meters further on, a few tourists already milling about on the square in front.

As he walked onto the Pizza San Pietro, he reached for his cell phone and speed dialed one. After two rings a calm, yet firm voice on the other side sounded:

“Pronto”

“I’m here, where do you want me?”

“Ah, figlio mio, just wait for the car to pick you up in five minutes and we’ll talk when you get here.

Without giving him a chance to say goodbye, the voice hung up and left him standing in front of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Norge, sammanfattningsvis

Nu, efter att ha varit exakt två månader i Norge befinner jag mig återigen på svensk mark. I typ fem veckor. Sen bär det av mot soligare breddgrader, men det ska inte det här handla om.

Det här ska nämligen handla om hur Norge var.

Kortfattat var det riktigt bra.

Och nu det lite längre svaret...

Ankom, som tidigare nämnts, till Förde i slutet av Augusti där jag och brorsan blev skjutsade till stugan som vi kallade vårt hem under den tid vi var där. Stugan var en riktigt bra jaktstuga med all tänkbar bekvämlighet, utom möjligtvis bastu. Vi hade ss allt från satellit-TV till diskmaskin, även om propparna gick med viss regelbundenhet när vi körde igång elementen över natten.

Det var med andra ord, lite kallt.

Vi bodde med fyra andra svenskar som också var där för att skära upp lammen under säsongen. Två killar som stod på banden med mig och brorsan, och två tjejer som fick packa köttet. Riktigt bra folk allihop och vi kom alla överraskande väl överens om det mesta. Inga bråk om smulor på diskbänken, bristande dammsugning eller sent festande.

Ja, sent festande blev det väldigt sällan då vi alla allt som oftast var allt för trötta för att vara uppe långt efter midnatt. En viss skillnad från min vanliga levnadsrutin.

En annan större skillnad var det faktum att vi började vår arbetsdag klockan sex på morgonen. Detta innebar då att vi var tvungna att kliva upp kort efter fem, vilket ingen ärbar man någonsinn bör tvingas göra. Bra då att ingen av oss var särskilt ärbara. Dock fanns det en stor fördel med att börja arbeta så pass tidigt, nämligen att arbetsdagen var färdig vid tre. Och då fanns det ju hur många timmar som helst kvar av dagen innan man blev trött och gick och la sig mellan nio och tio.

På arbetet lyckades jag dock slita ut min axel och få trötta fingerleder efter att ha skurit c.a 200k bitar kött. Ja, 200k. Hundra tusen lamm och två bitar på varje som skulle skäras fria från fett, körtlar och annat gojs som sedan blir till djurfoder (inte köttet, det andra). Cheferna hade emellertid viss sympati med mig och tillät mig istället lyfta och knuffa runt djuren delar av arbetsdagen, vilket visade sig vara mycket bättre för både axel och fingrar. Detta faktiskt skrivet helt utan ironi.

Dessutom är axeln och fingrarna nästan helt ok nu, några dagar efter sista snittet drogs.

Även värt att nämna är att jag gick ner en hel drös med kilo när jag var där. Närmare sagt så har jag gått ner drygt 15 kg sen jag åkte från Island i Maj. Kilo jag mår väldigt bra av att bli av med och sen ska jag fortsätta tappa lika många till.

Nåväl. Det sociala? Vi bodde i en stugby c.a 20 km från Förde (där närmsta nattklubb låg), men då det var ett tjugotal andra säsongande svenskar som också blivit förvisade till vildmarken så blev det ändå ett visst umgänge på helgerna. Vardagskvällarna var man allt för trött för att göra något annat än sova och sunka framför TV.n på. På helgerna däremot lyckades vi däremot virka (något jag personligen inte lyckades med), prata strunt med folk från här och där i Sveriges långa land, fika (detta svenska måste) och till och med åka till Bergen en lördag.

Summa summarum måste jag säga att denna vistelse i Norge var riktigt klockren. Jag rekommenderar därför alla som inte har något bättre för sig att köra detta. Pengarna är klart bättre än i Sverige och pga boendesituationen gjorde man knappt av med några heller.

Så till alle er som sitter hemma och inte har något jobb:

Dra till Norge!

Själv åker jag tillbaka om några månader.