I have to tell the story even though it is not mine to tell for reasons that will become apparent. It is my friend’s story, though I’m not sure I can still call him that. He’s dead now.
That’s not why he isn’t my friend anymore, or why I am telling the story. What he told me did not just change what I thought of him- no, he gave something to me I didn’t want. And now I need to pass it on, to make sure I can go back to living my life from before. Maybe I’ll pass it to you. Hopefully.
I was only twelve when the unspeakable happened and our lives got turned upside down. I know, I know. I said it wasn’t my story but to understand how I got to where I am now, you need to know what happened to me, what ultimately turned out to be the driving force for me gaining a new unusual friend and the catalyst for him confessing to me.
I had lived in a small town until I was twelve. The kind of town where you might not know everyone personally but you know of everyone. My father had been born there and when my mother married him she moved there.
I think I was lucky to have the childhood I had until then. The town was close to the mountains, so every weekend we were hiking, swimming, biking, or just playing around the mountains. I had friends that I had known since kindergarten or earlier and I had parents that loved me and cared for me. That’s what I remember at least.
But after the unspeakable thing happened, our lives were not the same. Small towns can be a great place, where you feel safe and can trust your neighbors. But if they turn against you, there is nowhere to hide. Everyone knows and everyone judges.
Long story short, we moved to another city because what I had done had made us outcasts.
The flat we moved into was part of a duplex house and the other half was occupied by an elderly man, Inger. He might have been old – though he was in the beginning of his sixties, which for me as a child was ancient- but nothing about him was frail. He was a big man, with hands like bear paws and silver hair that touched his shoulders and a silver mustache to match. Though he was big, he was not threatening. There was something gentle about him and when he spoke his deep voice was just above a whisper.
I don’t remember how we met, he must have come over to introduce himself when we moved I guess, but I do remember how in awe I was of this man so big that he had to crouch to enter our house. I had never seen anyone like that before. My parents were immediately charmed by him and soon Inger was a regular at our house. There was something so kind and almost sad about this man, I felt drawn to him. He appeared to be the kind of person who could understand why I was sad and who would not judge me for what I had done.
As it was summer and school was not starting for another month, I had plenty of time. And even though there were plenty of other kids in our neighborhood I had a hard time making friends. They were nice and welcoming, but I was convinced that even if I tried they would all learn how tainted I was.
Inger on the other hand, maybe because he had lived so many lives in his one, did not make me feel that way. The sadness I mentioned before came from being tainted, I thought. Of course, I did not find out how tainted he was for years.
The best thing about Inger was, that he was full of stories. Every Saturday, by dusk, the kids would assemble in his little garden and he would tell us a scary story. Sometimes the stories were sad too, like the one with the mask, other times there was something to learn from them, like the one where the dead husband comes back, and very often they were funny –but always, without exception, they were scary.
And whenever we were sitting in front of him on the soft grass, I felt proud, proud that this man was my friend. And I thought that maybe, just maybe him being my friend could make me less bad.
As both my parents were working, Inger soon became sort of a surrogate grandfather. My parents worried in the beginning that I was bothering him, but after they saw that I was getting better and after Inger kept assuring them that he appreciated the company, they relaxed.
Inger was a carpenter and had a workshop in his basement, which meant he worked from home. So every day after school I would join him in his basement and help out with the newest project. I liked carpentry but I wasn’t really good at it. Inger was though and I liked to watch a block of wood become something else entirely. I liked how you would slowly start to see more and more details until it was clear what it would become.
I even felt comfortable enough to tell him about the unspeakable eventually and as I was crying he patted my shoulder and told me that life was full of lessons and simply because something bad had happened that did not mean that I was bad or that I had to stay bad. Anyone could change, he told me. After all, he had.
My parents had told me as much trying to comfort me, but I never believed them. I thought they had to tell me that because they were my parents. Now coming from Inger, a friend, a man that had lived a long life, it felt true.
He told me that it would probably always be with me, but that I could use it as a reminder to be a better person. Me being a child still, I asked him if he had a reminder like that. A shadow crossed his face and he glanced into the corner of the workshop and for a second I regretted asking him because the faint sadness I always felt about him was now so strong it seemed to fill the room. I could see that he was looking at the past and regretting and I felt awful for making him remember.
Then the moment passed and he smiled again and said that yes indeed he did have a constant reminder, but that I was too young now to hear the story. This made me more curious, but I did not press further. I thought it might have to do with his wife. I overheard my parents talking about it and according to them, his wife had passed away in a tragic accident and he had never re-married.
Some things about Inger were strange, but our neighbors did not judge him for it because they liked him. I know I noticed some odd things, but I didn’t think much of it and accepted them as part of him. Everyone had their peculiarities after all. But knowing what I know now, I look at them in a different light.
There were times when he would stop talking mid-sentence and his gaze would get lost in the distance, after which he would often leave the room abruptly or ask me to leave. Sometimes I could see him sitting outside at night if I got up to go the bathroom, a lonely figure in his garden – just sitting there in the darkness on his wooden bench. Some days he would not let me come to the workshop and he would seem jittery and nervous and tell me he had one of his bad spells.
Though probably the strangest thing, and the only one I always thought weird, was that he would always leave for a week in November. He would leave on Halloween and come back a week later. He never said where he went or what he did. He would just leave and then show up again.
I tried to ask him about it, but he would always deflect the question with a joke or some throw-away line until I stopped asking.
People in our neighborhood accepted it and had their own theories what he was up to. Some said he went back to his hometown to visit his wife’s grave, some said he went to have “some fun” as he was a man after all and some said that he went for hunting trips, and others said he traveled to a new country every year to relive his old sailor life. It was odd, but in a neighborhood where there was infidelity, people getting busted for not paying taxes or secretly taking drugs, his mysterious vacations were just not scandalous enough.
I could tell you so much more about Inger and his life, it could easily fill a book. But I have to keep on track and tell you what matters, what mattered to him at the end of his life.
Inger and I stayed friends, even as I grew older, I managed to get over the unspeakable eventually, as Inger predicted, and make some friends my age. I still dropped by a lot even when I was already at university. I visited my parents every week and when I was there I would go see Inger too, to chat and catch up. As I grew up, my parents turned into old people, but Inger barely changed. In his 70s now he was still huge and still had his mop of silver hair, though he now had a silver beard and more lines in his face.
After university, my visits became rarer, as I had taken the same path as my mother, the doctor in the family, and had to do my residency, which made my parents proud but meant I had to work a lot. I was seeing somebody as well which meant I had even less time for other things.
So I hadn’t seen Inger for six or seven months when I got a call at the hospital where I was working telling me that he’d been admitted to another hospital in the area and had listed me as his emergency contact. A cold hand gripped my heart. Of course, I knew that Inger was old, he had been old when we met, but because he was still so active and full of life, I barely thought about him dying. Immediately I felt guilty because I hadn’t been to see him in such a long time and now he might die.
I asked what happened and they told me that it was better to talk in person, so I knew it was bad. As soon as I hung up, I left work and went to see him. At the receptionist’s desk, they told me to wait and got his doctor. He was one of my former professors and was happy to see me but it made telling me the news even harder I guess.
It was pancreatic cancer, one of the most painful cancers with very low survival rates, as it usually only gets discovered once it has spread.
“The cancer is in his lymph nodes and has spread to the pelvis, hips and his lower spine. It is too late for surgery in his stage, so there is not much we can do except remedy the pain. Unfortunately, he hadn’t exhibited any symptoms before, as it often is the case, and we only learned after the tests yesterday when he got admitted after fainting in the supermarket.”
“How long does he have?” I asked, my voice a whisper “It’s hard to make an exact prognosis as you know, but I would say not more than six months, if at all.” My former professor said unblinkingly. I was simultaneously grateful that he was straight with me and yet I wanted to punch him for being so unfeeling. This wasn’t just anyone to me.
I just thanked him though and asked to see Inger, who was sleeping at the time as I was informed. I said it didn’t matter, I still wanted to see him.
When I saw him lying in that bed, with the IV drip, it was hard not to cry. I had been helping to treat patients with terminal illnesses before and I had witnessed it through my mom for years, but when it’s someone you care about, it’s different. No professional training could prepare me for this.
He looked so fragile and for the first time death wasn’t an abstract concept, but a reality. Inger was going to die soon, and knowing that my own mortality engulfed me.
I stayed at his bedside until he woke up, but he was confused and although he recognized me he wasn’t able to understand what happened. He quickly fell asleep again.
I left, applied for leave from work for a family emergency and vowed to take care of him as he had nobody else. I talked to my parents and they were heartbroken. They came to see him with some of the other neighbors. Soon his room was filled with flowers and cards and I was happy that he could have proof that he was not all alone in this.
After a couple of days, he felt better, not good enough to leave the hospital, but good enough to chat and eat a little bit. When he heard he was dying he did not cry or complain.
“I am old, Ruben, and my time is coming. I have been waiting for this for a long time.”
“That’s a very brave thing to say,” I said.
He shrugged. “I have lived longer than many. It’s enough.”
When I came home that night I cried, not because he was brave but because I was going to lose him. Funny how selfish one can be. He was going to suffer so much through his lasts months and here I was crying that I would be left without a friend. Would I have felt the same way if he had told me his story that day? Would I have cried for losing him? I don’t know.
The day he told me everything, he had been nervous all day. He had kept glancing at the corner of his hospital room. After dinner, where he could barely eat, he said he had to tell me something. I thought he was going to talk about his will or what he wanted me to do with the house, but I was very wrong.
“It’s hard for me to start because I know once I tell you, there is no going back… but I need to tell someone before I die, someone needs to know.”
I nodded, grabbed a chair and sat down holding his hand. Now I thought he was probably going to tell me about his wife. And he did.
“I have never told this story before and I did not plan on ever telling it. I hoped to take it to my grave, but I don’t think I can.
I was always different, I knew when I was growing up that I was not like the others. I tried to fit in and to hide who I was but I just couldn’t help myself. I kept thinking about boys and even though I knew it was wrong, I could not stop it. Finally, when I was sixteen I couldn’t fight what my head was forcing me to do. I just couldn’t pretend any longer. And for the first time, everything felt right.
He was so beautiful, with eyes like the sea and I had been watching him for such a long time…”
There were tears in his eyes and I squeezed his hand, to let him know that it was okay. My heart went out to him.
“Now it’s different, but when I was young these things could get you killed. Still, I loved this boy with all my heart, and I thought he did too. I was so scared that his parents or mine would find out. And just like yours, my hometown was small. Everyone knew everyone. If it had come out what I had done, I could not have lived with myself and I knew what they would have done to me, to us. So, I left. And for a while I worked and kept my head down. It never lasted long when I tried to stop. Inevitably I would see someone I was attracted to and at first just watching them was fine, just knowing they existed in their perfect beauty was fine. But it would never be enough. At first I was always scared when I gave in to my impulses, fearing persecution and damnation. Then after a while when nothing happened I grew more bold. I was still hiding what I was, however now I did not scare as easily and I knew how I could get away with being with them.”
He stopped to cough and I gave him some water thinking how hard it must have been for him all these years, hiding that he was gay.
“I had many experiences, and I thought I knew that I was attracted to lads but everything changed when I saw her.”
“Your wife?” I asked.
He frowned and nodded. “You could say that, though she never formally became my wife. It was a Sunday and I had just finished working a shift at the hardware store. So I was exhausted and I sat down on a park bench to have a sandwich. Before I could take my first bite, I spotted her. She was talking to some other girls, probably her friends. She had this long, blond hair that would shimmer golden in the sun but her eyes were dark like polished walnut. She had a grace about her that seemed far beyond her years, like one of these silent era movie stars. My heart stopped when I saw her and the sandwich turned to ash. I could not believe such a beautiful creature could exist.
After that, I came to the park to eat my sandwich every weekend so I could see her, but I did not have the courage to approach her.” He smiled and there was such happiness in his face it made him look more like the Inger I knew.
“She approached me eventually. She just sat down next to me and told me that she always saw me in the park. I nodded, my mouth dry. I was too nervous to speak, so I offered her my sandwich and she took a bite.
“So tasty.” She stated before she asked me what my name was.
“Inger,” I said finding my voice.
“I’m Lydia.” She said before she said goodbye and left.
After that, she would often come by to say hello and chat for a bit. And I was the happiest man alive. I had not looked at anyone else and all I could think of was her. How nice her hair felt when it brushed against me, how soft her skin was when she touched my hand…I could barely focus on work, I was so in love.
I was building up the courage to ask her to meet up when her mother saw us in the park together. She did not like it one bit. She screamed at me to stay away from her daughter and other terrible things. Back then you could not just talk to a girl from a good family if you did not have the right pedigree. Well, I guess that is still the same.” He laughed before he continued. “Lydia was blushing and I could see how uncomfortable she was. So I excused myself and left, feeling ashamed even though I had done nothing wrong, I had just talked to her for God’s sake.
I was thinking about leaving town, but then thought it was too dramatic and decided to skip the park Sundays instead. I thought about Lydia constantly though. And after three weeks I had to go back, though I stayed off the main benches and tried to see if Lydia was there or if her dragon of a mother was. Her mother was nowhere to be found, but I saw Lydia sitting on the park bench alone while her friends were taking a walk.
As if she had felt my gaze, she looked around until she saw me and looked into my eyes. I felt little ripples like electricity shocks run through my body. As soon as she saw me she came over and hugged me fiercely. Now I was blushing, as we had never touched so intimately before.
“Where have you been?”
“I thought your mother didn’t approve.”
Lydia made a pouty face and said: “My mother still treats me like a child. But I am not a child. I can make my own decisions.”
I nodded. I didn’t know how right she was. She was not a child and I cannot imagine she has ever really been. There was something adult about her, something people call an old soul. But her old soul came at a price, one that I would pay soon enough. I did not know any of this, though, all I saw was this beautiful creature, perfect to me and she was saying she wanted to be with me. I could not believe my luck. After all these years of feeling like there was something wrong with me, I was now on the right path.
We agreed that she would sneak out at midnight and that I would meet her at our park bench to run away together. She said that her mother would never approve of us and that we had to leave town if we wanted to be tougher. I agreed even though I had only a little money saved, not enough to start a new life somewhere, but if she wanted to run away with me, I would do it.
I told her to be careful and she told me that she would be fine, that she had snuck out many times before.”
His face turned into a grimace of pain and my hand went for the button to call the nurse but he shook his head.
“No, let me finish this. I fear courage will leave me if I stop, even just for a little bit.”
“Okay, but if it gets bad, we’ll call someone.”
He nodded and continued, speaking faster and faster now.
“We ran away that night, I had bought a car from one of my colleagues at work. He was selling it cheap, because it had been his wife’s and she had passed, not in the car though that doesn’t really matter.
I picked her up and she had a little suitcase that made her look so mature. We took off and started driving with no clue where to go. I knew we had to go far, to make sure her influential family would not find us.
We drove for days, mostly sleeping in the car. Though it was hard, it was also beautiful. You know how it is in the beginning when everything is fresh and exciting.”
I nodded. My current partner and I were in this phase.
“Finally we settled for a town, far away from where we met, where nobody knew us. We could be whoever we wanted.
I found work in the town’s factory that was making barley syrup, which was very popular in the area and they gave us one of the houses at the edge of factory property to settle in. The condition was that I had to take care of the three huge cooking pots for the syrup that were around the house. They were basically big containers full of boiling hot syrup, that had an opening on top and I just needed to stir it occasionally after work. Of course, I agreed.
Lydia wanted to make the little house our home. In the beginning, it was wonderful. I could not wait to come home to her, and after she learned to cook, she would always have a meal ready for me.
But slowly the magic around Lydia started to disappear. She was still beautiful, but something was off about her. I don’t know if it was because the honeymoon phase was ending or if something had always been off about her and I had simply never noticed. It started innocently enough. Often I could feel her staring at me when I was reading the newspaper after work and when I looked at her she would just continue to stare at me without saying a word. There was anger in her eyes now, and I could not understand where it came from. I tried to make it go away, I bought her things I knew she wanted, I spent time with her, but somehow the anger seemed to grow instead of shrink. I know that love isn’t just about romance and everything being fine, but it was as if she had turned into someone else entirely.
I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t help noticing others again, some of the boys in town were very nice and although I tried to hide it she knew. She never said anything about it, neither did I but I knew that she knew.
There were nights when I would wake up and she was standing next to my side on the bed staring at me, which was bad, but it was worse when I would wake up and find her in a corner, facing away from me just staring at the blank wall in the middle of the night. Sometimes she was whispering things, though I could not hear what she was saying. In the beginning, I approached her and tried to take her back to bed, but she would not let me. She would start screaming and scratching me or worse, just get back up – her face bare any expression- and go back into the corner no matter how many times I carried her to bed.
Sleep became harder to come by. If I napped after work, she would find ways to wake me. She would hit pans together and laugh when I woke up scared and confused. We had mice, so occasionally I would find dismembered mice in my shoes or next to my pillow, on my newspapers, wherever she thought would be “funny” for me to find. When I went on my rounds to stir the syrup, she would follow me, always staying four, five steps behind. I told her to not follow me, as it was dangerous for her, but she did not listen. Slowly but certainly, our house was becoming a place of torment for me.
I tried to talk to her about it, but she would be incredibly mean and cruel. She called me names and accused me of terrible things, things I would never do.
One day I came home from work and the house was empty. I was worried but I was more relieved, which scared me. How could I feel relief at losing my love?
I looked all over the property but I couldn’t find her. I took the car and drove through town, looking for her, worrying that she had run away or gone back to her family or that something bad had happened to her and yet at the same time hoping she was gone for good. I did not find her.
I went back to the house, had some bread and butter and poured myself a glass of brandy. There was nothing more I could do. If she wasn’t back the next day I would have to go to the police though that was very risky.
As I was sipping on the brandy, I kept thinking how maybe this was a blessing in disguise, a sign really that I should take the car and leave.
That’s when I heard the floorboards creak and I knew she was in the house. My hairs stood up. I gripped the glass hard so my hand would not shake. I was sure she could read my thoughts at this point.
“Inger.” She said and her voice was sweet as honey. I did not want to look up.
“Inger.” She repeated, still sweet but now also urgent and I knew I had to look at her. When I did I suppressed a scream. She had shaved her head. Her lush hair was gone. She did not look like herself with her scalp bleeding from scratches where she must have slipped with my razor blade and her eyes were blazing with hatred but also pride.
I dropped the glass and it shattered into pieces.
“You don’t like it?” She asked. “Don’t I look like the boys you like?”
I started shaking my head, not as answer to her questions, just in disbelief.
She stepped closer and I fell over in my chair trying to get away from her.
“Isn’t this what you want?” She asked over and over again, following me as I was hurrying away from her. Her voice was getting louder and more desperate.
It was ridiculous really, thinking that this tiny thing was able to scare me so much I was running away. Maybe it was because I was sleep-deprived; though there was something else in her I am sure. I knew that I was much stronger than she was, that I could crush her if I had to. Yet I could not shake this sensation that she was more than just a girl, that she could hurt me if I let her get close enough.
She came after me slowly but deliberately as if she knew I had no way out. I thought about going upstairs, but then I would have been cornered so in my panicked state I ran outside.
I turned around and saw her small frame coming through the door. She was screaming at the top of her lungs now, calling me a pervert, calling me a pig, calling me the worst things you could imagine. This wasn’t my love anymore. It couldn’t be the sweet thing I had met. This was something different, something evil and it wanted me dead. I knew it.
I climbed on top of the container without a plan really, just thinking about getting away from her. She followed like she always had.
I was at the edge of the container, trapped like an idiot, as she was on the side where the ladder was. She came closer smiling, and all I could see were her big dark eyes filled with so much hate it seemed to burn me. Why did she hate me so much?
She was close to the opening and even though I wanted her gone, I did not want her hurt. I told her to stop. I begged her to stop.
She stopped right in front of the opening and looked down then she looked at me.
“What can still be left for me?”
Then before I could do anything she stepped forward and disappeared into the hole. I ran over and I saw her go under in the boiling syrup. It was burning her alive.
When she came back up, she was screaming in pain and fear. I don’t think she knew what she was doing or how much it would hurt. She raised her arms to me, her eyes now pleading. That was the only thing that still looked like her. The rest was just a mass of burned flesh, melted into a mess of blood and… it was horrible, she didn’t look human anymore. So I took the paddle I used to stir the syrup and I pushed her back down.”
I must have made a noise because he stopped. Tears were streaming down his face and I felt bad for judging him. He was trying to unburden himself to someone just like I had done, only he had listened to me without judgment and I could not even keep my mouth shut. I squeezed his hand again, hoping he would understand that I was still with him. He continued to talk, quicker than before as if the words were streaming out on their own now.
“I did, I pushed her back down. It was too late for her. She had already burned 100% of her body, even if she could have been saved what life would it have been?” He glanced to the corner of the room again and I turned around to see what he was looking at, but nothing was there.
“I pushed her back down and I kept her there until I could feel no struggle, and then I kept her there for another ten minutes, counting in my head. I had to be sure you, sure she was gone. Only then did I let go.
I knew I couldn’t stay. I packed some things and left as night was settling in. It was as if it wasn’t me making the decision, but someone else, making sure I would survive.
I drove and I drove, without a plan. I couldn’t sleep, all I could think about was her face, what was left of it, as she came up… her little arms reaching up. She was so small…”
A terrible idea had formed in my head and I hated myself for even thinking it. I wanted to ask, but I didn’t want to know.
Inger did not pause, though, and gave me no time. “I finally came to rest in another country, thinking I could start anew. At first, it seemed like I could go on. I got work, found room and board with a nice landlady. I did have nightmares for a while but they were starting to recede.
I was starting to think that even though I had done a terrible thing, I could still live a good life. But I was wrong. She found me of course. Lydia or whatever she had become.
I woke up 39 days to the day after I had killed her in the middle of the night and there she was, standing in the corner facing the wall. She was not burned, she looked just like before and for a moment I thought it had all just been a bad dream and that she had never died. I called out to her, but she didn’t react.
I got up and walked over to the corner, but the closer I got the slower I became. Dread came over me like never before. Something wasn’t right. She was dead, I knew it. How could she be here? And yet I could not stop, I had to see.
I put my hand on her shoulder and I felt her shoulder, actually felt it. It felt cold and a little damp at first, but the cold started burning my hand and I tried to let go but I couldn’t. That’s when she started to turn around and I tried even harder to get away. I think I was crying, but I sure know I was begging her to leave me alone.
I knew, I just knew I would see the face I had seen before I pushed her into the syrup. When she turned around, her face was the beautiful one I had fallen in love with though she was bald, and her eyes were black, completely black. I could not look away and now I could feel my insides burning the way my hand was burning.
She smiled and it was worse than her burned face in my memory, so much worse. I screamed and that broke the spell. Suddenly the corner was empty and my landlady and a man from another room were in my room asking me what happened.
I pretended that I had sleepwalked and had a bad dream. They were annoyed but relieved that nothing had happened. My landlady noticed the blister on my hand as if I had been burned. I said maybe I had burned it trying to light a cigarette before and didn’t notice. But I knew better of course. I had touched the thing that looked like Lydia and she had left her mark on me.
I left the next morning. I kept moving for years, which is why I became a sailor, but she would always find me and every time she did, she was angrier and her punishment of me more severe. She would torment me in death as she had in life. After a couple of years, I grew tired. I knew I could not live like this anymore. I tried to kill myself, shot a bullet through my mouth, but it got stuck in my brain without killing me, though I did nearly die and it did cause me get terrible migraines from that day on. I tried to cut my wrists but I was found in time, twice. I jumped off a building, but instead of death I got pain, so much pain in recovery. And every time I woke up from those attempts she was there, staring at me with those black eyes and smiling her awful smile. After the jump, I gave up. She was not going to let me die.
I had to find another way. I had to find a way to live with her. And I did, I have been living with her for decades. She is always in the corner, sometimes I’m lucky and she’s facing away, then I know I will have a quiet day. But often she is in the corner and looking at me with that terrible smile and I know it will be a bad day.
The carpentry helps somehow. She hates the noise it makes so she stays in her corner. But when the anniversary of her death is drawing near, she becomes stronger and meaner. That’s when I leave and go as far away as possible. She does always find me, but it takes her a while and if I can avoid when it’s really bad I can deal with the rest.”
He inhaled, looking exhausted and the question is still on my mind. He glances at the corner and I can’t help but look too, though nothing’s there, and continues. “She’s never let me touch anyone again, never. I have tried all my life to repent, to be better, to make it up. But there is no higher power, Ruben, no God that keeps a book of your good deeds and bad deeds. There’s only hate so strong it survives death.”
I had let go of his hand and all I wanted to do was to leave.
“I told you because we are the same because you know what I’m talking about.”
I started shaking my head as soon as he started saying this. “No, no we’re not the same.”
“What you did to that boy, when you told me, I knew you were like me. I knew it.”
I never felt so disgusted in my whole life. I was nothing like him, nothing. “I was twelve years old, I was a kid and so was he. We didn’t know any better. It wasn’t anything sexual before the adults caught us and turned it into something twisted.”
He smiled and that smile sent shivers down my spine.
“You can deny it all you want. I know what I know.”
I continued shaking my head. The unspeakable had been horrible when I was a child, something I was deeply ashamed of, but I had not done anything as repulsive as the man I had thought of as a friend.
“You are disgusting.” I cried out and practically ran out of his hospital room regretting having ever talked to him.
When I arrived home I googled until I found what I needed to know. There had indeed been a famous incident 50 years ago where they had found a body in one of the big barley syrup containers of a company. It was the body of a young girl, between ten and twelve years old. Never had I wished to be wrong about something more in my life.The person I had known, that I had loved was worse than just a murderer.
What was I supposed to do now? Would the police still care about a 50-year-old case?
I couldn’t sleep for a long time that night, but I kept drinking not picking up my phone and ignoring messages. I lied awake trying to forcefully erase the knowledge from my head. I did not succeed in that but I did succeed in drinking myself unconscious.
I woke up not knowing what time it was, or how long I had been asleep. It was still dark so it was still night. I wondered why I had woken up when I heard it. It was a low murmur. It came from the living room.
Shaking from fear I made my way to my living room, turning on the light as I went. As I entered the living room I saw it.
It was in the corner, facing away from me, whispering to the wall. The naked body of a child, bald head thin arms moving up and down. As she started to turn around my phone rang, she vanished in front of my eyes. I knew who was calling before I checked the display. It was the hospital telling me Inger had died.
You see, I am not like Inger. When I was twelve I fooled around with another boy my age and because we were both boys, and my hometown is very conservative, it became a big deal. They turned something innocent into something terrible but now I know better. We weren’t at fault for exploring. I like men, not children.
That didn’t stop her, though. She is here now, with me. I don’t know why. I don’t understand it. If she was there to torture Inger, shouldn’t she have disappeared when he died? Or maybe she is not Lydia and never was, maybe she’s something else altogether that latched onto Inger’s guilt and enjoyed tormenting him.
Whatever she is, it doesn’t matter in the end. What matters is that she will not leave me alone. See, I’m thinking that maybe she latched onto me, because I listened to Inger’s story. And then maybe, if I tell his story and people see, she will leave me alone.
I hope that tonight when I wake up when it’s still dark, I will not find her in my apartment staring at a corner. I hope that now that you have read the story, you will find her in yours.