My Comedown

“For the sake of my health,” I think automatically each time I pour frozen peas into my instant noodles.

Then I lie in my sarcophagus, which is my bed when it’s covered in linen sheets, when the blackout curtains are drawn and it’s dark and soft in the room like a soft grave. As the poisons leave my body, a throbbing lump of pain is formed behind my right eye, the size of a grape. Sometimes when it’s gotten really bad I’ve put a bag of frozen soy mince on my eye and felt it slowly thaw as I count down the hours. Time, my saviour. As long as the clock keeps going forward I’m not trapped in an eternal now which feels unbearable but which will be borne and over. 

It could have been worse. 2013, after an illegal rave in an abandoned mail center where malicious hallucinations chased me and spoke to me, I took a sip of orange juice in front of the mirror and spat it out immediately. It felt like my throat was closing up. I thought I was about to die. It was the acid in the oranges; I studied my palate and throat in the mirror with my mouth gaping wide. I’d smoked and gurned so badly with my tongue against the roof of my mouth that it had filled up with blisters, which had now burst. Full of little burn holes, like Freddie Krueger’s skin. 

Burnt. Everyone says they’re about to change, but they never do. The pendulum swings from action to regret. It does not go forwards, only side to side. 

Mike often used to call me late at night when he was anxious because he was coming down. He partied loads, many days in a row, because his parents lived far away from the city centre and it was so expensive to travel home. I liked his calls, I was an hour ahead of him timezone-wise and besides I was lonely in that bourgie neighbourhood where I didn’t have any friends and it was so quiet at night. I brought my phone with me to a bar and drank wine there while I talked to him, like I’d gone to the bar with a dear friend. I was happy to soothe his anxieties. I’ve got to change the way I live! he’d always say to me, but the next week he’d call again.

In my head, I see visions of gross primordial creatures, like my visual imagination is trying and not quite succeeding at remembering how things fit together. It invents living beings from scratch with only the vaguest frame of reference. Humans with too many eyes and weird tubes in their skin, or little creatures that are nothing but these weird, fleshy tubes. It’s important not to get scared by what your own mind shows you, regardless of how nasty it is. There are things you cannot help.

It’s easy to fall into a self-analysis spiral and question everything you’ve done the previous night. For most halfway functional people, booze and drugs are a way to get close to other people in an uninhibited, unforced way, where social contact becomes more open, more honest, more positively emotionally charged, and above all more stimulating. You can say anything. Right then and there a space is opened for the meeting between two souls – so it feels at the time – but afterwards, once the meeting’s over, you bitterly regret having flaunted yourself, agonizing over ugly sounds made while laughing or if you’re bad at fucking. Better not to think about those sorts of things, because it doesn’t help to obsess over yourself.

When I was around fourteen my only friend and I thought all people who drank and partied were worthless bimbos. The funnest thing we knew was eating about a kilo of pick’n’mix and playing Playstation 2 until we passed out from the sugar crash. High school was a whole different story. Indeed. Because they told me I had ADHD and prescribed me a medicine which was a slow-release amphetamine. I was so depressed that winter that I couldn’t do anything. It was so dark and cold, inside and out, and every lamp shone with a sickly yellow light that gave me nightmares about evil incidents in obscure bowling alleys and rollerskating rinks. It hurt so much. “It” was nothing in particular. “It” was everything. Sometimes I took 5-6 methylphenidate pills at once, to have the energy to perform socially, like when my friends were celebrating their birthdays. I remember once, after such a celebration, sitting awake until 6AM while everyone else was sleeping, shaking with diffuse fear, writing rambling and paranoid diary entries about a guy we met on the bus on the way home. I wrote them in Japanese, looking up each kanji individually. It was important to keep my observations top secret. When you’re coming down, you can get all sorts of strange notions. 

Methylphenidate is the worst when it comes to paranoia and anxiety during the comedown. Well, perhaps meth is worse – I don’t have a lot of experience with meth, but I definitely don’t recommend getting high on ADHD meds. They make you walk around like a robot, only talking about yourself with thousands of strangers while your heart remains ice cold and selfish. Later I started taking it just to be able to drink for longer without throwing up or falling asleep, and it worked so well I managed to give myself alcohol poisoning a number of times. Lying in bed and throwing up for days, unable to take a painkiller or even drink water, until Rhiannon came home to me with a bottle of Milk of Magnesia which tasted like mint and chalk. 

My childhood friend and I took some kind of potent dark web speed which you had to wash beforehand not to burn your nostrils. 48 hours later we still weren’t sleeping but were both paranoid as hell with our hearts thumping out 120 beats a minute. What helps against a high heart rate? we googled. Or something like, “How to support your heart”. There was something about Omega3, or maybe Omega6. Canola oil has a lot of omega fats in it, so in the end we downed a couple shots of straight cooking oil each.

All’s well that ends well. 2015, in the depths of Deptford we dressed up for Halloween and snorted really lousy MDMA and then Zeynab and her psychotic girlfriend went climbing on the scaffolding on the house next door. Her girlfriend rushed in and told us Zeynab had a fall and “bonked her head” so hard on the cement floor that she’d lost consciousness. 

“It’s cool, it’s cool!” said Zeynab and climbed through the window, then suddenly started cascade vomiting liters of hot pink Cherry Lambrini across the floor. We took her to ER and left her there, along with her psycho girlfriend, then Rachel and I went to a catholic mass, still in our halloween clothes, gurning. We thought it’d be a “funny thing to do”, but there we were, coming down in a congregation so warm and welcoming that we felt like villains. So when the socialist pastor offered me the sacrament, I said, no, just give me your blessing. Are you sure? he said so quietly no one else heard, and then he blessed my brow. I really felt it in me – that blessing. 

Writing’s always possible, once I could draw, too, but I’ve forgotten how. What people write when they come down resembles what they write when mania fades. They pick fights with their own anxiety, argue with it, try to make deals. My friend showed me a text they’d written on a comedown, four tight, incoherent pages where they’d written about me, that we were obviously both in love with each other and may God let me read their thoughts. I really got the hint and we fucked the same night, but then I went home, and came down.

Swedish teens got pissed like they wanted to die. My friend threw up on Walpurghis night, about 5-6 cigarette butts. Those of my friends who were really mental – there were a few, and they really were mental – were put into psychiatric hospitals, always in the section for psychotic patients, because nowhere else had any space. They’d end up befriending the only other normal people in the ward which were the people selling coke and heroin. 

The least you can do for yourself when you’re about to come down is taking a proper shower and then make the bed you’ll be forced to lie in. To come down is one thing, but coming down on twisted sheets, with the smell of ciggies still in your hair, is really tormenting yourself more than you’ve deserved. Oh, and it’s lovely to have a few popsicles in the fridge. Eat a salad, perhaps, but let’s be real with ourselves about who we are and what we’re going to do. If we’d been the kind of people who pick salad over instant noodles I suppose we wouldn’t be lying here now, in the dark. 

“I’m never going to drink again after last night,” Ian writes to me. But he will and I will too. Some are hit by a terrible sense of guilt whenever they’ve done anything debauched. You think you ought to be a certain way, act a certain way. During the comedown, you pray to God for forgiveness, but a week later you’re ready for the same thing all over again, you’ve already forgotten. I don’t understand why you even ought to be ashamed, what good it’s supposed to do. Shame and regret aren’t strong enough to make you change anything. Partying really can be a total riot. 


Text & Image: Zola Gorgon

Süleyman (Svenska)

Süleyman, du kan inte vänta dig att jag ska hålla koll på vilken kille i ditt harem som för tillfället har din gunst eller inte, så kan du inte bara skriva mig en lista på vem som just nu är bra och vem som är dålig?

“Jag älskar dig!” sa han.

1. Det du åtrår, det bestämmer du dig för; det du bestämmer dig för, det blir din handling; och som du handlar får du skörda.

Först var jag tyst, sen vände jag mig om för att med kylig artighet fråga, “Ursäkta att jag frågar, men exakt vad är källan till din kärlek?”

2. Jag försöker att förstå saker som är väldigt svåra att förstå.

“Det är du, såklart, du är källan till min kärlek!”

“Jag?” sa jag, och försökte låta överraskad.

“Ja, du!” ropade han, och såg längtansfullt på mig, som ett barn som ber om något det vet att det inte kommer att få. Mitt hjärta började slå med ömkan och bestörtning och således blev jag tvingad att framföra charader så djävulskt osannolika att de skulle verka malplacerade till och med i en Shakespearepjäs.

3. Så som många djur tjänar människan, så tjänar varje människa gud. Utan hans godkännande kan inte ens ett grässtrå röra på sig.

27. Jag går vidare, jag triumferar på vägen.  

85. Man ska fundera på allvarliga saker först när man blivit helt och hållet är besatt av Dionysus, och sedan nykter.

“Visst, jag älskar dig också,” sa jag och hoppades på att vara klar, att gå hem och få lite förlösande sömn. När jag såg in i hans desperata ögon borde jag ha kunnat gissa vad jag nyss satt i rörelse. Även de mest okunniga kan, som hundar, spåra lukten av åska. En rasande våg lyfte mig upp till sitt krön och bar bort mig. Oupphörlig och krävande. Stormen rasade vidare i dagar, i månader – ett helt år förflöt. Allt man vet faller bort om man glömmer bort vem man är, men jag mindes, och levde länge nog för att få se slutet. När jag lämnade ondskans trädgård genom flätade portar, slog mitt hjärta snabbare, och mina bröder omfamnade mig och hällde upp ett utsökt vin åt mig.

4. Bröder slog vakt om platsen där jag anlände. Från vad hade de fötts? Vad lever de på? Vad grundades de på? Vem har bestämt att de ska kunna dricka så mycket, o ni vise män?

Mina bröder, ert vin är för starkt för att man ska kunna dricka det ofta. Ändå kommer jag tillbaka för mer. Kom ihåg, mina bröder, att hicka som denna är en bevingad bön, som kan höras till och med på Baalbek.

Det kommer alltid finnas män som honom, eller jag kanske borde säga: pojkar som honom, som jämför sig själva med din storhet, och hatar det, inte för vad det är, men för vad de själva är eller inte är.

5. När jag tas emot av Änglarna, när kommer han då tänka på mig?

De kan avundas till och med ett barn. De pratar om förnuft, men är vansinnigt känslosamma. Må helgonen skänka dem artighet innan fallet.

6. Jag svär att jag troget, lojalt, och hederligt ska tjäna mina älskare och deras legitima efterträdare, överlämna mig själv åt dem med all min styrka och uppoffra, om det krävs, mitt eget liv för att försvara dem. 

Det är kallt som marmor på tunnelbanestationen, tunnelns käkar är ömma och bortom dem måste havet ligga, där stormarna ryter. Hallelujah!

7. Avges ett löfte, så närmar sig bus.

När hans vänlighet försvunnit vägrade jag vika mig, jag var utan tvekan magisk och vidskeplig. Jag försökte bara visa hjältemod. Så vad ska jag göra nu? Jag avser att visa att min heder är mig mer värd än mitt eget liv. Kärleken förändras inte, men är ändå orsak till alla förändringar.

11. Marcus, Gud välsigne dig.

Jag vet att det är lättare att svara på böner från en man som har besvarat andras böner.

Gudinnorna Anath och Astarte slogs samman till en gudom, som kallades Atargatis.

Jag vet att det är lättare att svara på böner från en man som har besvarat andras böner.

Han Som Rider På Molnen. Fenicierna kallade honom Baal Shamen, Herre över Himlen.

13. Vad mitt namn betyder? Gåva från Gud.

95. Und wenn die Welt voll Teufel wär und wollt uns gar verschlingen, so fürchten wir uns nicht so sehr, es soll uns doch gelingen.

30. Vem? Jag? Heder, ära, och evig seger!

Närhelst sann kärlek visar sitt ansikte (och döden äntrar genom mitt fönster) kommer den att vara sitt eget bevis. Han ser minoansk ut. Han ser byzantisk ut. Han ser baktriskt ut. Jag gillar hans utseende. Det kommer inte finnas någon förvirring. Det kommer inte finnas någon förvirring. Det kommer inte finnas någon förvirring. 

38. När armenier når toppen av klimax kommer de i kaskader. 

39. Du vet, han hade verkligen kunnat rädda vår vänskap, återställa den till lycka och dygd – men det gjorde han inte. Ynkrygg!

62. Välsignade är de som sörjer för de ska komma att bli tröstade.

93. Medelst de vackra läppar som Skaparen lät mig besitta, så kysste jag med min mun: knarklangaren, bartendern, skaterkillen, arkitekten, målaren, diplomaten, och alla de andra också.

Men han som reste sig emot dig, och hade ondska i sig, Süleyman – honom skall du glömma. Men nu, bakverk med saffran, Süleyman. Du flyger som en hök, du kacklar som en gås, Süleyman. Den där hemliga formen, dina två ögonbryn, Süleyman, är som två armar på vågen som väger varje dag och natt. Vad är det, Süleyman? Dina ögon får alla våra hjärtan att svämma över med ljus. 


Text: Ian Memgard
Översättning och bild: Zola Gorgon

Süleyman (English)

Süleyman, I cannot be expected to keep track of which dude in your harem is currently greenlit or not, so listen – why don’t you write me a list explaining who is currently good and who is bad?

“I Iove you!” he said. 

1. What you desire, you resolve to pursue; according to your resolve, so is your deed; and according to your deed, so you reap.

I said nothing for a moment, then turned with icy politeness. “Forgive my asking, but what exactly is the source of your love?” 

2. I’m trying to understand things which are really hard to understand. 

“It’s you, of course, you are the source of my love!”

“Me?” I said, trying to sound surprised.

“Yes, you!” he cried out, and looked at me wistfully, like a child asking for something it knows quite well it won’t get. My heart began to beat with pity and dismay, and so I was forced to act out a charade so diabolically improbable that it would seem out of place in one of Shakespeare’s plays.

3. As many animals serve a man, so does each man serve God. Without His sanction not even a blade of grass can move.

27. I’ll pass on, I’ll make triumph on the way. 

85. One should deliberate serious matters first completely possessed by Dionysus, then sober. 

“Sure, I love you too,” I said, hoping to be done with it, go home and get some redeeming sleep. Looking into his desperate eyes, I should have guessed what I had set in motion. Even the most ignorant catch, like dogs, the scent of thunder. A tumultuous wave lifted me onto its crest and carried me away, incessant and demanding. The storm raged on and on, for days, months – a year passed by. All prior knowledge shatters if you forget who you are, but I remembered, and lived to see the end of it. Leaving behind the wicker gate of the Garden of Evil, my heart quickened and my brothers took me in their arms and poured me a delicious wine. 

4. Brothers attended the place where I arrived. From where were they born? By what do they subsist? On what are they founded? By who regulated, can they drink so much, ye wise men?

Your wine is too strong, my brothers, to drink of it often. Still, I will come back for more. Remember, my brothers, hiccups like that are winged prayers, they can be heard even at Baalbek. 

There will always be men like him, or perhaps I should say, boys like him, who take their own measures against what’s great in you, and hate it not for what it is, but for what they themselves are, or aren’t. 

5. When I’m received among the Angels, at what times will he think of me?

They can envy even a child. They talk about reason but theirs is a lunatic sensitivity. May the saints toss them some manners before the fall. 

6. I swear that I will faithfully, loyally and honorably serve my lovers and their legitimate successors, and dedicate myself to them with all my strength, sacrificing, if necessary, my life to defend them. 

In the subway station it’s cold as marble. The jaws of the tunnel are tender and beyond must be the sea, where the storms rage. Hallelujah!

7. Make a pledge and mischief is nigh.

As his kindness ran out, I refused to surrender, no doubt magical and superstitious; nevertheless, I was only trying to be heroic. So, what am I going to do now? I intend to show that my honour is valued more highly than my own life. Love does not change, yet it is the cause of all changes.

11. Marcus, may God bless you. 

I know it’s easier to answer the prayers of a man who has answered the prayers of others.

The goddesses Anath and Astarte were blended into one deity, called Atargatis. 

I know it’s easier to answer the prayers of a man who has answered the prayers of others.

He Who Rides on the Clouds. In Phoenician he was called Baal Shamen, Lord of the Heavens. 

13. What’s the meaning of my name? Gift from God. 

95. Und wenn die Welt voll Teufel wär und wollt uns gar verschlingen, so fürchten wir uns nicht so sehr, es soll uns doch gelingen.

30. Who? Me? Honour, glory, and eternal victory! 

Whenever true love appears (and death shall enter in through my window) it will be its own evidence. He looks Minoan. He looks Byzantine. He looks Bactrian. He’s got the look that I like. There will be no confusion. There will be no confusion. There will be no confusion.

38. When Armenians reach the summit of their climax it really does cascade.   

39. You know, he really could have saved our friendship; he could have restored it to happiness and virtue, but would not. Coward!

62. Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.

93. By means of the beautiful lips that He who created me let me possess, I kissed with my mouth: the drug dealer, the bartender, the skater dude, the architect, the painter, the diplomat, and all the other ones too. 

Now he who rose up against you, and there was evil in him, Süleyman – forget about him. Now the cakes of saffron, Süleyman. You fly as a hawk, you cackle as a goose, Süleyman. That secret shape, being your two eyebrows, Süleyman, are like the two arms of the scales weighing each day and night. What then is it, Süleyman? Your eyes flood all of our hearts with light.


Text: Ian Memgard
Image: Zola Gorgon

My Boyfriend

Watching him snort.

Maybe I should go back to my world tour.

I am stronger by it than the strong, I have power by it more than the mighty.

I’ve been provided, my boyfriend has provided it to me.

The place of restraint is opened. The place of restraint is opened to my soul.

His body is stretched out, the steps are lifted up, and so are my thighs. 

I am weak and feeble. I am weak and motionless in the presence of my boyfriend.

I have stabbed my own heart in the making, performing things for my boyfriend. 

I have opened up to myself every highway in town. 

I have become a prince. I have become glorious.

I have been provided with what is necessary. 

I have shot arrows, I have wounded the prey. 

I have been provided with a million enchantments. 

I smell the air coming forth from his nose; I am exalted by reason of this thing. 

I have made an end of my failings; I have removed all my defects. 

I am the Satrap of my boyfriend.

My poetry was so brand new that my boyfriend fucked me numerous times that night. Many people heard about it and wrote it down in their diaries. Afterwards my boyfriend said, “God can do anything – that is why carbon dating equipment works and that’s also why I can fuck you this much”. We used to live in peace for many months. Sheep played in every vale and valley. Then my boyfriend got bored. He held a conference and told all his friends about a coming war. He said the battles were, “flesh vs spirit, truth vs lies, love vs hate, sanctified angels vs demons”. The things my boyfriend told his friends really amazed me. When we got home from the conference my boyfriend pulled up a book that was lying in a pile with a bunch of papers on the table and showed it to me. 

“Let’s look at this book”, he said. 

I opened it and flipped through the pages one by one. I looked at him and asked, “Now what do you say?” 

“Have you understood what the book is about?”

“It’s a book about claims”, I replied. 

“Dude”, he said and patted me on the shoulder. Later on, after a few beers, my boyfriend started informing me about how to fill out claim documents by writing the cost of each warrant and it didn’t take me long to understand how it was done. 

“Starting tomorrow, I am asking you to come and help me with my work”, he said and looked to see if I would accept or refuse. From then on, I became his great assistant in preparing claims according to travel application documents that came from the government. I did the work with great effort and care until my boyfriend was happy.

“Now listen”, he told me one day after praying for us. “Sit here and rest. Don’t worry because here you are at home. I will take care of you, and God willing, I will get us what we need.” I thought he was joking. It is painful to think your boyfriend is joking when he is being serious. This made him very angry. “Name the market where you can buy a boyfriend, and I’ll go buy a new one for you if you can’t take me seriously!” he said and slapped me across the face. I was so surprised. I thought his hand was stuck solidly only to my heart. It surprised me even more when he called me a faggot at mass. “So if you, my dear boyfriend, the person in whom I place all my trust, start calling me a faggot during mass, let me remind you being a faggot is not a disease! You know very well that when things go from bad to worse, you’ll be seeking me out – I am gone!” I ran away in tears.

Later that evening he took me out dancing. We had such a good time I completely forgot about what had happened. If I could tolerate being called a faggot at mass, I could also tolerate a slap now and then; just a moment to donate what the heart allows. Now, if you’re listening to my story, you’ll notice I talk about memories. Is it even possible to live without belonging to anyone? My boyfriend is an ill tempered man. 

So, they say he’s a bad boy. Tell me, how bad is he exactly? People say he’s using me, and the lies they have spread have traveled all the way to Brussels, to Paris – from Paris they came back to Berlin, and from Berlin the lies even reached Tokyo! What is it with my boyfriend’s name? The clothes that he wears fit him very well and make him look good. When they see me walking next to him downtown, it troubles them. I reject the greetings of a bunch of clowns. What do they want me to tell them? After all, a person’s reputation is harmed the most by what you say to defend it. They criticize my boyfriend at night and during the day too. They do not get tired. They have disrespected my boyfriend a lot. I’m tired of these people, the kin of mosquitoes. They keep on gossiping with their friends and flatmates. Sure, my boyfriend’s conduct might be a little impudent, but his heart has never lacked principles. Has anyone else had this type of boyfriend in the last 8 years? I’m the only one, and this is my vindication, my authenticity as herald of our love. My boyfriend’s presence scares people. I don’t know why. I’m tired of telling people to leave me and my boyfriend alone, the way they left Jesus on the cross.


Text: Ian Memgard
Translation and image: Zola Gorgon

Love of my life

A friend told me that for her dad, transitioning to female meant being allowed to do whatever you wanted. I used to think the same thing about being a guy, that’s the way I pictured it. Once I saw a goth bartender smoking morosely, leaning against the counter, completely indifferent to me. It was as though the clouds parted above my head – divine revelation. The wrist of a louche goth bartender smoking – imagine possessing such a thing!

I thought: Thank you for smoking, thank you for not smiling.

Margaret Atwood said one good thing about guys: “My love for them is visual; that is the part of them I would like to possess.”

I sought the love of my life tirelessly in the mirror. Every time I remembered I couldn’t be that boy, I was devastated, as if I’d been given a hard right hook by God father himself. The point of the Quixotic project was to make the impossible real every day, for myself if not for others; to realize what being “a hot guy” meant to me and to take that into my life, that freedom –

To feel joy, to enjoy sex – to be allowed to do whatever I wanted.

Where’s the line between wanting to have and wanting to be? Do people figure that shit out on their own?

Of course, plenty of men were boring. I saw them… the men… on the street, or on the Ubahn, and I thought, I’d never want to be that one, it’d be just as bad as being me. And if I’d had to be myself but as a man – awful! I’d be short, and probably bald, like all the men in my family, with a genetic tendency to put on a beer belly and… no, that wasn’t what I wanted at all. And I know myself, so I’m sure I’d have had some sort of hang up about my cock too. 

Actually I don’t have any hang ups about my cunt which is essentially perfect.

The hottest guy I ever fucked, I mean girls went home with him if he just talked to them on the street, he had a hang up about his cock too – his cock which was essentially perfect.

A trans feminine friend told me there’s lots of things men feel they can’t do. Fair enough – lots of men are scared of being fags, for example. I would have liked to be a fag. Gay men seem to like each other and themselves and to fuck without feeling degraded by it. No one really seems to love women; not heterosexual women, not heterosexual men, and not queers either – definitely not them, for whom being a woman is cringe and basic. 

Scared of faggotry, yes – what scared men don’t understand is that fags are naturally cool and besides seem comfortable with each other and like they’re having fun, while lesbians and queers on the other hand spend most of their energy accusing each other of emotional abuse; constantly calling for retribution which will not arrive, as if the world was just, as if there was a judge or teacher who’d listen when you say what’s been done to you and dole out punishment to the deserving.

But since the people who’ve cemented their traumas left the game long ago, they only punish each other. No, it’s not as much fun to be fettered to the ground with a heavy, aching body and think about your marginalisation, as it would be to skate recklessly, do an ollie high above the setting sun – to suck cock in the gardens of paradise, before shame or misfortune.

No one knew what “nonbinary” was when I was in my late teens, fortunately, but I just refused to tell people if I was male or female, and so I lived in a true autistic one-person utopia. I loved not having to tell or to know, pure subjectivity. Then nonbinary people came along and crushed my dream by realising the project in the lamest possible way and I’ve never forgiven them for that.

The dream had something beyond that, not to put your finger on… rather to escape the finger, and the mortifying eyes of others. No boxes checked at all, rather than begging for a third choice, as if any part of your innermost soul could be validated by a form.

The joy in my life depended on how well I convinced myself that my fantasy was or would be real, to what degree it went from my dreams and into my understanding of reality. I was waiting for something good, for which I’d wait my whole life. Like awaiting the saviour. Is that what it means to have faith?

That faith is lost to me. I’ve learned a few things about men and they’re not what I thought; the woman who best can embody the glint in the eyes of a really mischievious faggot is a cool dyke who truly doesn’t give a fuck. Imagine seeing your face every day and never seeing anything, only what you wish it was. The wasted beauty of that unloved face. Instead of seeing yourself in the mirror and thinking – ah, there you are!

The love of my life.

If every soul cracked and the boundaries between the inside and the outside finally collapsed, no identity would remain, just a core of pure yearning too supermassive to fit into a human life.

At last you’re on the frequency of angels.


Text & image: Zola Gorgon

Husdjur

Jag går och jag kommer aldrig tillbaka säger jag. G får något mjukt i blicken, går ner på knä och knäpper sina händer. När han gör så slutar det vara oavgjort, jag är den dåliga! Men det är det bara jag som vet. Han kan inte se min skuld. Jag är ensam i den. Det räcker för att jag ska börja längta hem till honom fastän han är rakt framför mig. Ska vi inte bara göra något trevligt istället? Säger han. Vi kan gå och köpa kött till din gryta. Det är sol och på vägen äter vi pho. Slaktarens händer är blodiga och vi får med oss en tung påse kött. Vi har gått i 40 minuter och nu är det långt hemifrån. 

Familjen håller sig själv som husdjur. Familjen är liten som ett gatukök på stationen. Jag kände mig vuxen för sex år sen när han tog mig med på ett seminarium om samtida kärlek där det var nedsläckt och tjocka sammetsgardiner bakom scenen. Föreläsaren sa att ingen idag är någons förstahandsval och jag tänkte att det inte skadade att tänka så om kärleken. Kände mig vuxen. Men för varje dag blir jag mer och mer som ett barn. Jag vaknar i natten av att det luktar ben och tänker på skelett som smulas sönder, hur man ska sila buljongen, vad man ska göra av resterna. Jag tänker det är bra att han kan hjälpa mig med det.

Kan du inte se skapande på mig, som en film eller en bekant säger någon i en Norénpjäs. G skulle aldrig säga så. Men om han sa det skulle jag svara: är det ett kärleksfullt skapande? Och gråta en gråt jag gråtit förut, som rinner i redan upprivna fåror. Ibland särar gråten på de gamla tankarna men inte när jag gråter över G.

Jag får känslan av att det är något jag inte fattat. Livet är inte som jag beskriver ovan. Det är en värdig plats för en själ.


Text: Fredrika Flinta
Bild: Lisa Vanderpumps Rose av Fredrika Flinta

The Music

What do you mean by that? You said I was joking about your new shoes. Why does the person who knows you so well say you’re a cheater? I’m a man who cares about you. I think you’re my dear darling. Something surprised me today; you came to kiss me on the mouth. You put your dick in my hand and called me your little shepherd. What are you looking for? I’ve met the other men and they say you’re okay. Stop cheating. If so, maybe it’s time to divorce her and move on. You personally inform me that your wife will send me an email to educate me. Please, tell me that story again. The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple. You’re just like that. You treat me like your very naughty child. 

My God, what a mess it is to follow you all around Berlin. My poor legs always yield to your ways. I want to tell you about all the bad things you do. I tried to do it once, on the side, after work. I hold on to Jesus and flee. I see you’re an idiot. What can I say about you? What example can you set for married men? No example. Could love be more beautiful than people consent to make it? You ask what has happened to my attitude. I’m still the same man who dies for you. The other people see us. I’m not lying to anyone. Why are you sending me an email saying you’re just kidding? Not to mention that your wife is in the hospital. You’re doing a terrible thing. You’re doing something wrong. 

The matter is set before your eyes. The matter was with the roses. The fire broke out, and you almost had us killed. The matter was settled for you to follow. Why are you with your back to me? The politics of the world has no place here. The word, the word is used interchangeably with the word. You are a swindler. Peace be upon you. In the game of, in the face of promiscuity, your hands are pale, and the bells are ringing. Why aren’t you listening to me? Some of these musicians, they become our lovers even before we meet them. Now imagine sitting in a pub somewhere in downtown Nairobi, watching him dance. 

All childhood memories come up in these songs. I was 7 years old. I wanted to quit school because of these songs. I forgive you everything when the music starts to play. That is why you want me to visit your wife in the hospital, the one with the newly installed music system. Music heals the sick you explain to me. You say you are not well briefed, so telephone me. I’ll speak to you and brief you completely until you understand. My God, I don’t know what to do. Your name is Yatsko. Have you ever heard of a man called Yatsko? Your middle name is Fabrice, so that is what I call you. You tell me you are from Venice. You say you will take me there one day. I know you are from Granada. Stop lying to me, Fabrice.

You act as though you are fighting with Napoleon. Why did you deceive your wife? You started yelling at me. Who were you challenging? I decide to leave you and you turn ill. Your complexion is now similar to that of a banana. I don’t think I’ll ever see you again. The only sorcery I have known has been to pray. You search for my replacement in vain, my dear. I hear your wife is doing better. Thank you for the photos you left me. I have certainly come to live the experience. Always faithful to your hunger, you’re still hanging around town. The taxi drivers always know where to pick you up. Having once satisfied all of your desires, in the bars that you always like to visit, the walls still report to me what you do. Good luck, Fabrice. Find a way to forgive me. 

You were not easy to deal with, but I’m the photocopy, very much your boy. What use is beauty to me when there’s no one around to admire it? You used to film me and all the funny things that I normally would do. Someone told me you were making a movie. I anticipated the situation by calling the producer at 6am to ask him if he could burn the film. He did. You want to hang me for what I’ve done, but it doesn’t matter, I already have everything. It is useless to try and remember me. My mother calls me everyday to ask me how I am doing. She makes sure that I am home by that time to answer her calls. Have you quit smoking? Are you drinking less? Are you studying? My dear son. Will you be okay? Are you still hanging around with that man? Do you need some money? I start to laugh. Don’t worry about me. Rumors.

I turn myself into a ship captain and dock at every port, where my lovers are waiting for me. We almost started a riot in Porto because we were carrying guns inside our shopping bags at the Castelo Vermelho. Big mistake. The courts will close during the day. Many people thought they would die. They saw we were looking for violence. Their hearts were pounding for us to love them. They were not afraid to eat of their love. If I love them, and they love me, where will we go for all this love? The real thing is what wonderful people they are here. The men are drunk, their brown eyes shine with… I decide to find out. It would be a crime not to go dancing with them. There’s something about his nose. I look back to the past. He reminds me of Fabrice. I push forward. The music moves me. I reach out my hand. The music moves me to do stupid things. 


Text: Ian Memgard
Image:  Juliusz Lewandowski

Bladee

Marknaden var kaotisk och suddig. Men även på en sådan plats hade de handlande människorna en viss definition. Fastän de uppenbarligen existerade i samma utrymme som jag, så verkade de alldeles för vackra för det. Marknadens verklighet kom endast till mig när jag prackade på människor andrahandsteorier jag snappat upp från böcker som “Marknadernas historia” och filmer som “Markus på marknaden”. Marknader är som egna moderna samhällen i miniatyr, tänkte jag. Och i dagens samhälle ansågs jag vara en lite tråkig person. Jag hade varken modet att röka cigg på toaletterna på rasterna, eller att shotta tequila med resten av mina kollegor på våra after work-fester. Kanske hade jag bara nyss fyllt 20, men jag förstod redan att saktmodets dygdighet var en ren och skär lögn. Vilken sorts framtid väntade mig om jag redan, även i detta miniatyrsamhälle, var helt oanmärkningsvärd? Omkring mig gick coola unga par runt och letade efter retromöbler att fylla sina vackra lägenheter med. Vad gjorde jag egentligen här? Vem var jag? Min föraning om att jag skulle komma att leda ett fullkomligt trist liv fyllde mig med en förtvivlan bortom alla ord. Jag skulle precis bege mig tillbaka hem, när jag hörde någon ropa mitt namn.

De säger att livet är en slump, men jag tror att mitt möte med Cameron den dagen var del av något mycket större än vi två. Man hade kunnat säga att det var som det efterlängtade svaret på mysteriet Julius Ceasar viskade när han blöd ihjäl på senatens golv. Eller var det mer som svaret på Sphinxens gåta? Jag antar att det inte spelar någon roll. Du förstår, om jag var tråkig, så var Cameron spännande. Det roliga och det skrattliga vandrade vid hans sida vart han än begav sig. Som om han rest världen runt växte Cameron upp och blev den starkare, mer solbrända, och betydligt mer självsäkra av oss. Folk tyckte att han var sexig, och han sågs alltid med ett leende på läpparna. Det blev vår plikt som bästa vänner att undersöka alltingtillsammans, att dra varje värja som gick att dra. Men var det verkligen en bra idé?

En viss “Bladees” uppdykande hade fångat mina vänners uppmärksamhet den sommaren. Han var det enda de pratade om, och det enda de lyssnade på. “Så imponerande är han faktiskt inte,” brukade jag säga, för att övertyga både mig själv och mina vänner, men sanningen var att jag var mer än imponerad. Jag…

Jag…

Jag tolkade helt enkelt Bladee självständigt, och observerade honom från andra, mycket märkligare vinklar. Kanske var det fånigt at mig, men jag fann honom fascinerande. Jag minns en kväll på en hemmafest, då en vän till mig satte igång låten “be nice to me”, och en underlig röst i mitt huvud svarade, “det ska jag.”

Bladee var så fri… fri på ett sätt jag inte var. Skulle jag någonsin bli så fri som han? Jag måste försöka. Han som är fri från rådande moral och förnuft kan åstadkomma vadsomhelst. Precis som Marquis de Sades hjältinna Juliette, måste jag befria mig själv för Bladee.

Natten innan jag stötte på Cameron på marknaden hade jag det galna infallet att be till Gud innan jag gick och lade mig. Hur går det nu igen? frågade jag mig själv, men sen kom orden till mig.

“Fader vår,” började jag, “helgat varo ditt namn. Må ditt rike komma, må din vilja ske…”

Vem kan säga vad som hände sen? Allt jag minns är att jag hörde samma fruktansvärt underliga röst som på hemmafesten. Den verkade komma från inuti mig.

“I anden! I kroppen! I ögonen! I båda händerna! I blodet och andedräkten! I klingan!” ekade den genom min själs kammare. Min hjärna tömdes och jag störtade ner på sovrumsgolvet i djup sömn. Jag minns inte vad jag drömde den natten. Bara den där rösten – den där underliga rösten… Oskyldigt undrade jag om orden fortsatte att formas inom mig. Märkliga tankar och vansinniga tankar och allegoriska tankar spred sig. Om jag bara vetat vad som väntade.

“Hallå, Ilia!”

Jag vände mig om och såg min bästa vän, lika munter som alltid.

“Hej Cameron,” sa jag, “hur är läget? Jag skulle precis gå.”

“Redan?” sa han besviket. “Jag skulle ha älskat att hänga med dig, bro. Jag letar efter ett uråldrigt svärd att hänga på väggen i min nya lägenhet. Du är alltid så bra på att hitta sånt.” Sen lystes hans ansikte upp. “Du kommer aldrig kunna tro vad jag ska göra ikväll!”

“Vadå?” frågade jag. Cameron gjorde många otroliga saker och det verkade troligt att vad han skulle berätta för mig, vad det än var, faktiskt skulle låta trovärdigt. Men vad han berättade därnäst var verkligen förbluffande.

“Jag har biljetter till Bladee-konserten,” sa han.

“Du skojar,” svarade jag, och min hänryckning måste gjort intryck på honom, för han bjöd mig direkt att följa med.

Den kvällen, när vi förfestade hos Cameron, så insåg jag att det var ödet snarare än slumpen som fört oss samman, och med samma människor som jag mött hundra gånger förut, på andra hemmafester och häng. Alla verkade ovanligt intresserade av att konversera med mig, mycket mer än vad de någonsin varit tidigare. De kommenterade till och med min utstyrsel, och sa, “du ser jättebra ut ikväll, Ilia!”

Om det fanns en gud som slängt mig, så var detta en gud som plockat upp mig igen. En gud som förstod mig och mitt djupa behov av frihet. Av att vara fri för Bladee. Var det samma gud som besvarat min bön natten innan? Vad den rösten än var för något så bestämde jag mig att tro på den. “Ubern är här om fem minuter!” sa Cameron. Brum brum – så var vi på väg.

Jag minns inte mycket av konserten. Vem skulle kunna minnas sådan ekstas efter att den är över? Men efteråt, när konserten var över, så la Cameron armen om mina axlar och viskade i mitt öra: “Det finns en överraskning åt dig. Gå upp för trappan och knacka på den gula dörren.”

“Vänta, varför det?” sa jag, men Cameron bara blinkade åt mig.

Vad överraskningen än var, så lydde jag. De väntade på mig i mitten av ett enormt rum med en underbar utsikt över natten. En stilig kille i en röd tröja erbjöd mig den ultimata frestelsen. “Bladee är här. Du måste ge honom ditt hedrande.”

“Du vet vad du måste göra,” uppmanade hans följeslagare mig.

“Snälla!” svarade jag utan att tveka. “Jag ska göra det.”

Bladee, du kan komma in nu,” sa en av de unga männen på svenska. Jag var stel av förväntan. En minute senare kom Bladee in i rummet.

Ibland sägs det att vissa kändisar är “trevliga och jordnära”, men nu förstod jag vad det verkligen betydde. För i hans ögon såg jag inte den trendiga unga stjärnans kyliga glans, utan värmen som återspeglades från ögonen hos de ödmjuka kor som hans förfäder en gång måste ha fött upp, i sina små stugor, i det lilla kalla landet så långt borta.

Det måste vara du som är min väpnare,” sa Bladee (på svenska), och jag nickade eftersom jag förstod av mig själv vad han menade, fastän jag inte förstod hans språk. “Men även den mest trogna väpnare förtjänar en dag att själv känna riddarens vansinniga beslutsamhet.” Jag knäböjde framför hans klappstol och förberedde mig på att ta emot hans svärd, som skulle dubba mig in i hans värld. I andra ord så sög jag hans kuk. Och när han kom i min mun, med ett stön som verkade komma från själva djupet av hans varelse, så fylldes min hjärna av ett bländande vitt ljus; där var det, klarhet, intellektuell och spirituell styrka, som om varenda hudcell – inte bara i min kropp men även i min själv – plötsligt hade blivit fullständigt återfuktad. Och då visste jag det. Att jag aldrig skulle vara tråkig.

Jag såg upp med tacksamhet och torkade mig om munnen. Men vad hade hänt med Bladee, plötsligt så tömd på kraft? Han såg fullständigt utmattad ut när han lutade sig tillbaka igen mot stolen, oförmögen eller ovillig att resa på sig igen. “Tack… och varsågod,, sa han, och när han talade verkade han kollapsa in i sig själv, som en ballong några dagar efter festen. Och precis som en ballong tömdes han plötsligt på luft och skjöts genom luften, ut genom det öppna fönstret och in i den stjärngnistrande natten utanför. Jag tappade hakan för andra gången – denna gången av vördnad. Skulle han någonsin synas till igen? Kanske skulle hans resa fortsätta på en annan plats, i en annan stad; kanske på en annan planet. Allt jag visste var att min resa bara precis hade börjat. 

text: Ian Memgard & Zola Gorgon
översättning: Zola Gorgon
bild: Ian Memgard

Bladee

The market was chaotic and blurry. But even in such a place, there’s a certain definition to the people buying and selling things. Even though they clearly existed in the same space as I, they appeared to be too beautiful for it. The reality of the market was only provided to me by cornering people with second hand theories I had picked up from books like “A History of Markets” and movies like “Markus at the Market”. Markets are like self-contained, modern societies in miniature, I thought. And in today’s society, I was considered a somewhat boring person. I didn’t have the courage to smoke cigarettes in the restroom during breaks, nor to do tequila shots with the rest of my colleagues at our after work parties. I may have just turned 20, but I understood that the idea of meekness as a virtue was a bold-faced lie. What sort of future could await me if I was already unremarkable even in this miniature society? All around me were cool, young couples looking for retro furniture to fill their beautiful apartments with. What was I really doing here? Who was I? My premonition that I would lead a totally boring life filled me with a despair beyond words. I was just about to head back home, when I heard my name being called.

Life is said to be a coincidence, but I think that my encounter with Cameron that day was part of something much greater than the two of us. One could say it was like the long awaited answer to the mystery whispered by Julius Caesar as he bled out on the senate floor. Or was it more like the answer to the riddle of the Sphinx? I guess it doesn’t matter. You see, if I was boring, Cameron was exciting. The fun and the laughty stayed at his side wherever he went. As if he’d travelled the whole world, Cameron grew up to be the stronger, more tanned, and significantly more confident one of us. People thought he was hot and he was always seen smiling. It became our duty as best friends to investigate everything together, to draw every blade there was to be drawn. But was this really such a good idea?

The appearance of a certain “Bladee” had caught the attention of most of my friends that summer. He was all they would ever talk about and all they would ever listen to. “He’s just not that impressive,” I used to say, trying to convince both myself and my friends, but in reality I was more than impressed. I was.. 

I was.. 

I was simply interpreting Bladee independently, observing him from other, much stranger angles. Maybe it was silly of me, but I found him fascinating. I remember how one night at a house party my friend put on the song “be nice to me”, and a strange voice inside my head answered, “I will”.

Bladee was so free… free in a way I was not. Would I ever be as free as him? I had to try. He who is freed from existing morals and reason can accomplish anything. Just like the Marquis de Sade’s heroine Juliette, I had to free myself for Bladee.

The night before I met Cameron at the market I had the crazy idea to pray to God before bed. How does this go again? I asked myself. Then the words came to me. 

“Our Father,” I began, “hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done…”

Who can say what happened? All I remember is hearing the same terribly strange voice I heard at that house party. It seemed to come from inside me. 

“In the spirit! In the body! In the eyes! In both hands! In blood and breath! In the blade!” it echoed through the chambers of my soul. My mind went blank and I crashed onto my bedroom floor, fast asleep. I don’t remember what I dreamed that night. Only that voice – that strange, strange voice. I wondered innocently if those words were forming within me even after. Strange thoughts and mad thoughts and allegorical thoughts scattered themselves. If I only knew what was to come.

“Hey, Ilia!” 

I turned around and there was my best friend, as cheerful as ever.

“Hey, Cameron,” I said. “How’s it going? I was just about to leave.”

“So soon?” he said, disappointed. “I would have loved to hang out with you, bro. I’m looking for an ancient sword to hang on the wall of my new flat. You’re always so good at picking out things like that.” Then his face lit up. “Oh, you’ll never believe what I’m doing tonight!”

“What?” I asked. Cameron did many unbelievable things and it seemed likely that what he was about to tell me, whatever it was, would, indeed, be believable to me. But what he told me next was truly astonishing.

“I’ve got tickets to the Bladee concert,” he said.

“No way,“ I replied, and the rapture on my face must have impressed him, because he invited me to come along.

That night, after pre-drinks at Cameron’s, I realized that there was fate, more than coincidence, entangled with our encounters, the very same people I’d met a hundred times before at different house parties and hangouts. Everyone seemed oddly interested in making conversation with me, more than they ever had made known to me before. They even commented on my outfit, saying, “you look really good tonight, Ilia!”

If there was a God who had thrown me away, here was a God who had picked me up. A God who understood me and my deep need to be free. To be free for Bladee. Was it the same God who had answered my prayer last night? Whatever that voice had been, it was a voice I decided to believe in. “The Uber is here in 5 minutes!” said Cameron. Wroom wroom – and we were on our way.

I don’t remember much of the concert. Who could possibly recall such bliss after it’s gone? 

But afterwards, when the concert was over, Cameron put his arm around my shoulders and whispered into my ear, “There’s a surprise for you. Head upstairs and knock on the yellow door.” 

“What, why?” I said but Cameron just winked. 

Whatever the surprise was, I obliged. They were waiting for me in the middle of a huge room with a wonderful night view. A handsome guy in a red shirt offered me the absolute temptation. “Bladee is here. You must pay him tribute.” 

“You know what to do,” his companions urged me. 

“Please!” I answered them without hesitation. “I will do it.” 

“Bladee, du kan komma in nu,” said one of the young men. I stood frozen in anticipation. A minute later, Bladee entered the room.

People sometimes say that certain celebrities are “nice and down to earth”, but now I truly understood what that meant. For in his eyes I saw not the cold glint of the trendy young star, but the warmth reflecting from the eyes of the humble cows that his ancestors must once have reared, in their little homesteads in that small cold country far away.

“Det måste vara du som är min väpnare,” he said, and I nodded because I understood intuitively what he meant. “Men även den mest trogna väpnare förtjänar en dag att själv känna riddarens vansinniga beslutsamhet.” I kneeled before his folding chair and prepared myself to receive the touch of his sword, which would dub me into his world. In other words, I sucked his dick. And as he came into my mouth, with a groan that seemed to come from the very depth of his being, a blinding white light filled my brain; there it was, clarity, strength of spirit and intellect, as if every single skin cell – not just in my body but in my soul – had suddenly become perfectly moisturized. And I knew it then. That I would never be boring.

I looked up in gratitude and wiped my lips. But what had happened to Bladee, suddenly so drained of his power? He looked completely exhausted as he fell back against the chair, unable or unwilling to rise again. “Tack…. och varsågod,” he said, and as he spoke he seemed to crumble into himself, like a party balloon left out a few days too many. And just like a balloon he suddenly deflated and was propelled through the air, through the open window and into the starry night outside. My mouth dropped open for the second time; this time, it was with awe. Would he ever be seen again? Perhaps his journey would continue in another place, in another city; perhaps, on another planet. All I knew was that my journey had just begun. 

text: Ian Memgard & Zola Gorgon
image: Ian Memgard

The Horse Girl

I just loved to ride… and I loved nothing besides.

I didn’t think of anything but horses.

Meticulously I sketched naturalistic horses with long slender legs and thick manes.

That Friday, I drew horses straight onto my school desk. “Ida,” said my teacher, “if you keep on destroying your desk, we’ll ask your parents to pay for it. You don’t listen.”

I drew on my binder instead, and in the textbooks. In books, horses always had names, but I didn’t name my own horses. Wild horses living in nature and who would have let me ride them only because of our special mutual understanding. The other girls they’d have thrown off and flung into the mud, rich girls with baby blue fleece jackets and horses which they named and owned.

I put my cheek against the cool wood of my desk and dreamt the same dreams I dreamt at night before sleep. Swiftly, I rode over an endless meadow. Rain was in the air. The clouds broke, thunder split the sky, lightning caught a tree and the tree caught fire. Below me the flank of the horse was warm and the sky black. I rode bareback, like an extension of my own body. As if I wasn’t there at all. Someone behind me made a sound. I woke up and heard the boys laughing.

“Look,” someone whispered, “she fell asleep on her desk and you can see…”

“Hey, Ida,” one shouted, “don’t you know people can see your underpants when you lean forward like that!”

There was something special in the air at the end of a school day, trembling moist freedom, especially on a Friday. Yes, I was happy running out of the classroom. I unlocked my bicycle, still a child’s bike, and the drizzle wet my cheeks. My life was rich, because I had one great love.

“Those things just make girls asocial and strange,” my dad said, “when they put their emotional attachments on horses instead of on humans. Horses aren’t pets, you know, they’re investments, people trade and sell them. And I certainly won’t be buying you any horse, so I don’t see why you need to learn how to ride. You’ve already been doing it for years, and it’s hardly going anywhere.”

I stared at him with pure hatred in my eyes, and when he noticed, the corners of his mouth started twitching with mirth. 

“Well, little Ida,” he said, “that’s the way of the world, I’m afraid, and since there’s nothing to do about it, maybe you ought to get a cheaper hobby. Orienteering, perhaps?”

But I absolutely did not want to orienteer with the girls who crowded in the thickets of the woods in squeaky windbreakers, eating sour green apples with their crooked teeth, struggling with some lame terrain map. I wanted to be with the horses. The closer I came to the stables, the more my breast filled with a sensation of peace and joy; the wheels of my bike crunched against gravel, and the birch trees lining the road still had their leaves. Nothing but lone farms out by the stables, perhaps a tractor driving on the field and the adults living here were generally quiet, if they saw me they only waved, and I waved back.

A hobby, they said. A hobby wasn’t what I had.

The riding school rested on a hill, willow trees dipping their branches into the earth, beech trees swaying in the wind, and only a few employee’s cars parked outside; an adult woman crossed the ground in a norwegian sweater and muddy rubber boots. It had paid off to bike there quickly; nobody else my own age was there yet. They were waiting to go home, eat something, get picked up and delivered to the riding shool by their parents; only I went there straight after school. The stable had thirty horses, and twenty ponys, and indoors the air was heavy with their warm animal smell. And the stable cat, who came up to me and rubbed himself against my legs, and I squatted down and petted his little head, as smooth and hard as a pebble.

“Hello, Ida,” said a riding instructor, who’d caught sight of me. “Here again?” Little Ida is what people called me when I first started riding, because back then I was little, but now I was grown and nobody called me little Ida anymore.

I just turned up, and they didn’t shoo me away. It was as if adults, as soon as they saw me, immediately repressed the knowledge that I was there.

“Yes,” I said. It was hard to think of what to say when people adressed me. “Here I am again.”

I used to think the horses looked a bit like prisoners, where they stood in their boxes, especially when they stuck their heads out to see who was there. While the little children rode, I did everything I could in the stable. I cleaned out the boxes. I groomed backs and withers. I carefully brushed great foreheads and around eyes, I cleaned hooves, untangled manes with my fingers, I wiped great nostrils clean.

After the little children had finished their lessons came the ones my own age whose voices made me shiver. I myself became quiet like a shadow. What envy I felt when I saw them riding, and then leaving the stables and heading out for the countryside; to where I couldn’t follow them, because I didn’t have a horse.

I was as good as them or better, and I never cried when I got thrown off the horse; I wiped the dirt or blood off my face and I got back in the saddle. I didn’t cry. Some bawled like babies. They were scared of the horses. Scared of getting hurt. Not me. One time my mouth bled. I swallowed the blood so no one would see. Along with the blood I swallowed something hard and sharp. A splinter of my front tooth. I got back in the saddle.

That particular day I stayed until the night fell, and actually it happened that all adults were sitting inside the big farmhouse, where the windows were lit up, drinking coffee and eating biscuits and petting the cat and gossiping in their slow country voices. A class returned, horses filled the empty boxes, girl’s voices chattered, and sooner or later a rush of motors and cars would come bringing back both girls and voices in the night, to houses which I imagined full of those little porcelain figures, with plastic landline phones constantly ringing with someone’s desire to speak to them.

This was the night a girl got badly injured. I followed commotion to the manege, and saw the girl lying on the gravel with a face white like a mask. 

Even the proprietress of the riding school, rarely to be seen, was there; she had long white hair and had always scared me, because she really looked like a witch. Everyone feared her, because she had a short fuse and could berate students until they started crying in front of their entire class, and none of the other teachers dared to stop her. They said she grieved bitterly, because her man had died in a hunting accident, and that now she patrolled the countryside with his gun. She was, like all adults, busy explaining things to other adults, to the ambulance personnel and to the parents, when they came in their cars to pick up their children, and by the way everyone said everything would be fine you could tell something terrible had happened.

I was happy that attention was directed elsewhere, and in the stable it was actually completely quiet, besides the sighing and snorting of horses, and me alone with them and in peace, when I noticed someone had left the door in the back open.

A wide door made out of concrete, moulded into the wall. You might have guessed it was a fire door, but it couldn’t be an emergency exit, because no one had seen behind it, and behind the house was nothing but a big hill, like the kind where they buried bronze age chieftains.

Even I had never really thought about what might be behind the door, that’s how inconspicious it was, so closed and innaccessible.

But now it was open, just a crack, and I went through the crack. Then I groped in the dark until my hands found an old fashioned light switch; a click lit a row of naked bulbs hanging from the walls, casting a pale yellow light like they hadn’t been changed in decades.

It smelled like the crypt where they baptized my cousin, soil and cold and untouched things, but a different smell came through, warm like feces and with the iron quality of blood, a blood smell I hadn’t yet at the time gotten to know.

I’d expected a storage room or something like it, but the concrete floor turned into trodden soil in front of me. I went down the tunnel. Could this be a grave?

The animal smell grew stronger and stronger. Not just the smell of animal, but the smell of a filthy animal. I sniffed. It wasn’t a horse, not quite; I knew the smell of horses well, but something about this one wasn’t right; it was as if it had changed shape with another smell which I did not like at all.

I came to a rotting old wooden door and opened it without hesitation, and the smell that hit me almost made retch and fall back.

At first I thought there was a dead horse lying in the dark, a stillborn foal, a youth.

Then I thought I saw a dead child, with long slim limbs, thrown out without clothes like garbage.

My eyes were confused; I thought it was a doll, a doll in real size.

It wasn’t possible to understand what I saw.

But it wasn’t dead, it was alive, because its limbs were moving.

Human arms with human hands as well as hooves.

And some kind of head, covered in thick horse’s hair, a tangled mane.

Then two round shiny eyes in the dark looking at me, a long face.

And I looked into them and we saw each other.

“Who are you?” said the thing living down there. “Please don’t leave.”

I’d never heard a human speaking in that way.

“My name is Ida,” I said. “Who are you?”

“I’m one that hasn’t been baptized,” said the living thing.

I noticed a little TV was on in a corner of the room, with the sound turned very low; it cast cold light over the dirty hay. I looked from the TV to the one I was speaking to. And I saw it was neither human nor horse, but something inbetween.

The lower body was essentially that of a horse, but thinner, and only in patches covered with a very thin fur, the neck long and sturdy and with long thick hair. And at the top of this long, sturdy neck, a head, a face… like that of a human, with large teeth, nostrils flaring when she breathed. But there was no doubt about the eyes: they were warm and filled with a horse’s endless sensitivity.

“What are you doing down here?” I said and crouched down next to her.

“I don’t know a lot of other places,” she said. It was like she had to think between each word, and actually she furrowed her brow in confusion while she spoke. “Or where I would be if I wasn’t here.”

“Have you been here for a long time?” I asked. “Did someone lock you up?”

“For a long time,” she whispered. “Yes, I think a long time has passed.”

Now I saw that her front legs didn’t end in hooves, like a horse’s, but in human hands with very thick nails and palms as thick and rough as the soles of feet. The back legs, on the other hand, did end in hooves, and both of them were overgrown, without shoes. And under the sparse fur I saw the ribs and the lungs rising and falling under the skin.

“You’re not scared of me, Ida,” she said.

“No.”

“They said people would be scared. If they saw me.”

I thought about it. “They probably would,” I said. “Are you in pain?”

“Why?”

“There’s something wrong with your hooves.”

“Pain. Yes. I’m… in pain.”

“They don’t let you trot?”

“Trot… sometimes I trot in here. But it hurts.”

“It’s because your hooves are overgrown.”

She was silent. Tears as big as bilberries formed in her eyes and rolled down her downy cheeks.

“I’m born from a terrible sin,” she said. “People aren’t supposed to see me.”

What terrible sin? I decided not to ask.

“Don’t be sad,” I said, “I’ll help you.”

“How?”

“I can file down your hooves, so it doesn’t hurt when you walk. And then we can…”

“Trot?” she said.

“Ride?” I said.

“Ride is… when the human sits on the horse,” she said, almost like a question. “I’ve seen it over there.” She meant the TV. “But doesn’t it hurt?”

“No,” I said, “it’s wonderful.”

“I mean for the horse.”

“I don’t know. Horses can’t speak. But I don’t think so. I wouldn’t do it if it did.”

She sniffed with her big nostrils, and her eyes widened.

“What is it?”

“You have to hide,” she said.

Quickly I crawled across the muddy floor and rolled into a ball between a few bales of hay rotting in a corner. I hugged my knees tight and did my best to breathe slowly, hearing boots treading the ground.

“Back already?” the horse girl said.

“I forgot to lock up,” a human voice answered. I peered over the hay bale to see what was going on and saw a middle aged woman with long white hair hanging down her back. It was the proprietress of the riding school! She stroked the horse girl’s mane. “I had to come down to make sure nothing had happened to you. Imagine if someone had come here to hurt you!”

She spoke the way you speak to a child.

“No one comes,” the horse girl said.

“No, and they won’t, either,” the proprietress said. “No one knows you’re here, and they won’t ever know. So don’t worry. It’s just your poor old mummy being fussy. Now be a good girl for me, and eat plenty, okay?”

“Yes, mum,” said the horse girl, but her mum must have been mad, because everything down there had rotted and neither horse nor human nor inbetween would have wanted to eat it. 

The proprietress left. I crawled out of my hiding space and my clothes were caked with sour mud. 

“You’d better run away from here before she locks you in,” the horse girl whispered. The truth in her words hit me immediately and I moved like a rat in the darkness, quick and quiet and desperate.

They hadn’t closed up yet, but it was quiet in the yard; almost everyone had gone home, and in the dark office I found the key and hid it in my pocket. But when I came to my bike, a chubby riding teacher was standing there with her hands on her hips, watching it thoughtfully.

“Oh,” she said, when she saw me. “There you are, uh…” then she was silent for a while; she probably tried to remember my name, but failed. “We’re closed, you know.”

“I know, I know,” I said, “I’m very sorry.”

“The horses need their rest too, you see.”

“I understand,” I said. “I didn’t mean to stay for so long.”

“Fair enough,” she said and laughed. “Wow, you must have worked hard! You look like you’ve scrubbed out the stables with your very own clothes.”

I laughed along, then jumped on my bike and rode away with my heart beating hard.

My parents were watching an english crime show when I came in, and my mum frowned.

“You stink,” she said.

“Yes,” dad said, “it’s like a whole little cowshed’s come in.”

“Mum, dad, can you make a copy of my bike key?”

Then they turned their heads and actually looked at me. I must have been filthy.

“I mean, what if I lose my key! I actually love biking!” I said passionately, as if I already blamed them and as if I was ready to start bitching and fighting.

“Well, I guess it’s good for you to be interested in something besides those fucking horses,” dad said.

“Johan, you don’t have to curse in front of the child,” mum said.

“No, sure, of course,” said dad.

“I’ll put the key here,” I said, and left the key to the basement on the coffee table, next to his feet. He snorted, but actually did make me a copy, and just two days later I was back at the riding school and the original was back in its place.

I felt like a god, everything was with me.

Nothing could go wrong now that I had a purpose.

The next time I came down she raised her neck and pointed her ears like she was preparing to flee. She sniffed the air, and breathed out quickly.

“It’s just me,” I said, “My name is Ida.”

“Ida.” She nodded. Her eyes were big and shiny in the darkness, and in the background the TV was on, silently, sending a cold flickering light over the filthy hay. “You came back.”

“Yes, and look here,” I said.

That time I brought a proper flashlight, a packet of oat cakes, tiny green apples from my garden, and a magazine about horses.

I also brought a file, desinfectants, and eye drops.

We watched TV together and I took her hoof carefully into my lap and started filing it down while she ate oatcakes. Sometimes she looked at me, but usually just at the TV. That day they were showing a rerun of Xena, Warrior Princess. The horse girl told me, she measured time by what was on TV. Reception wasn’t the greatest in the basement, sometimes gray lines filled the screen, and if you turned the sound on there was static noise like a different reality wanted to break through. “After the Xena rerun there’s Survivor,” my friend explained, while she passively watched the screen and ate oatcake after oatcake. “And after Survivor, the other one visits me, and then you’ll have to leave. But of course she doesn’t turn up every day.” Then I felt her disquiet. “You don’t think she’ll notice that you filed down my hooves?”

“Tell her you’ve done it yourself, that you’ve been scraping them against the floor.”

She snorted, but just as quickly looked cheerful again. “Do you know, after Survivor they send some really exciting shows. Programs where people die. And you can watch them have sex and stuff like that. Sometimes. I like the one with the vampire guy.”

“It’s a pity I can’t stay that late.”

Yes, it was a pity. But I came back as often as I could – almost every day. The only difficult thing was not to get noticed coming or going. But on the other hand, there was nothing I did better than not getting noticed. I hadn’t talked as much in all my life as I did with her, told her things about the world, the wide open meadows and forests, and we fantasized about riding there together; my best fantasies yet.

She said, “Ida, what do you do when you’re not here?”

“I’m usually here,” I said. “When I’m at home I lie in my bed and read. Sometimes I look at different web pages on dad’s computer.”

“On the internet?” she asked. I guess she’d never used a computer.

“Yes, but just in the evenings. Dad says it’s too expensive otherwise.” While I pretended to do my homework, I learned things about horses instead. If I knew enough maybe they’d let me work at the stable one day, or as a vet. If I could make myself essential – surprise them one day, with the depth of my knowledge – they’d say, “Oh, Ida, how could we make it without you! Stay as long as you want!”

There were even pages where you could write with other girls who liked horses. But I never dared to register there. Because what if they…

“And in the daytime?”

“I’m in school during the day,” I said, and tried to sound neutral, but it was pointless to try to hide any feelings from her. She knew what I was feeling even if I never said it.

“You don’t like it.”

“No,” I said bitterly. I didn’t want to think about school in that moment. Gastric acid rose in my throat, visions of endless desks, endless empty hours filled with hate.

(And in the night. In the night I rode or ran naked through dark forests in my dreams. The branches of birch trees whipped my thighs, dew and fog wet my face.)

“I thought maybe you had a boyfriend or something?” she said, with a note of hopeful interest. She seemed a lot more keen on that kind of stuff than I was, but then she was a bit older than me, too, that was obvious.

“No,” I said.

“Why not?”

“I don’t need a boyfriend.”

“Oh,” she said scraping against the floor. “You don’t want one? But it looks so fun on TV.”

“Yes, but it’s not like that in reality.” Guys were so nasty, I avoided them, especially the older ones, because there was no limit to their sadism. One time a group of boys stood in my way when I was leaving the sports hall. They’d found a condom in the bushes and showed it to me, and then they turned it inside out and rubbed it against my sports bag. I don’t know why I didn’t run away, I was so blank, and afterwards scared to death that my parents would se traces of sperm on my gym bag after I put it into the wash, that they’d angrily confront me – what kind of filth have you been up to?

Sometimes I saw girls in my class with boyfriends, how they put on a show for them. Would I ever be one of them? It seemed unlikely. There was a boy once who was nice to me, we played together in the grove on the schoolyard, where we pretended to fight invisible monsters. But nobody played anymore, and he’d changed classes and disappeared in the crowd. “Guys are mean in real life,” I said. “Only stupid girls run after them.”

The horse girl pondered this but didn’t answer. After a few minutes she said, “I still think I would have liked to have one, if I could.” Then she looked at me in a way that made my heart hurt, and I felt stupid and selfish, who had access to all the things human beings can do, but still couldn’t.

My eyes burned when I thought about it. It was terrible that someone as lovely and kind as her would be stuck down here in the dark, while those who roamed the surface were so awful.

What did they even do? Talked loudly, ate with grinding jaws, watched TV, tackled each other in football, injured each other.


I lay in my bed staring at the plastic stars glowing on the ceiling, waiting to hear my parents leaving through the front door.

Images appeared before my inner eye in sudden clarity because the dreams were not far away. I didn’t want to sleep before I’d achieved my goal, so I pulled a book from the pile next to the bed and tried to concentrate on it. The book was about a blond girl who rode in a stable somewhere – it must have been America, since the girls were named things like Ashley and the guys were named things like Clive. Even though Ashley was the best rider and had a very special connection to horses, she didn’t have her own horse, only the mean rich girls did, who neglected their horses and left her to take care of them in an emergency and then they were ungrateful too. But by the end of the book things would work out for her… I knew that. I’d read a lot of books that were basically the same and they all ended in basically the same way.

Actually it was a bit childish, and I’d outgrown childish dreams. Instead I now dreamed my reality. In my dream I was the one who rode… then caught sight of something so vile that I woke with a horrified start. I wasn’t supposed to sleep.

It was quiet on the ground floor.

Hard to imagine either of my parents checking to see if I was still home.

I biked the whole way to the stable and entered the way that only cats did.

“Ida!” she whispered when I entered the cavern. It always took me a while to get used to the smell. I think she saw the way I flinched, that it hurt her feelings, but she never brought it up. “How fun that you’re here so late!”

She let me climb onto her back, and we made a few slow rounds around the cavern.

I said, “Does it hurt when someone rides you?”

“No,” she said, “I wouldn’t say it hurts, but at the same time I can’t say why I would want it.”

“Should I get off?”

“I mean, I want it, but I don’t know why I want it.”

“They breed horses to want those things,” I said.

“What do you mean, breed?”

I blushed. “Well, when they make them mate with each other, they pick horses who do things you want them to do, you know, horses that are friendly or fast or…”

She slowed down, taking all of this in.

“Why do I exist?” she finally said. “Could somebody have… wanted this? But in that case, why…”

“I don’t know. But it’s lucky that you’re born with the legs of a horse and the face of a human, because if it had been the other way around, if you were a human-body with the head of a horse, then we couldn’t have talked to each other, or have ridden.”

The horse girl started to cry. “All you think about is different ways to use me.”

“That’s not true,” I said, horrified. “I just want to help you. I’d have tried to help you even if you’d had a human body with a horse’s head and forelegs. I thought this is what you wanted. We can do something else, if you want. Whatever you want.”

“How am I even supposed to know what I want, if the things I want are things I’ve been bred into wanting?” She turned her face away and stared at the wall. I just saw her sturdy neck and the long mane. “Most of all I’d like to fight vampires like Buffy does on TV.”

“Nobody really does that,” I said.

“No?”

“Not here, anyway.”

“I think that’s what I would have wanted. So why do I want that? Do they breed humans to want things like that?”

“Nobody breeds humans,” I said and finally slid off her back, faster than I’d intended to, and landed with a thump on the filthy hay. “They just…”

“When they want to.”

“I guess so.”

“But why do they want to?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to.”

“So what do you want?”

“I want to… I want to learn enough about horses,” I said, embarrassed, “that if I’m here, helping, then maybe I can help them when they get injured or, you know… that I can help take care of the horses enough that I can stay here.”

“In big cities,” the horse girl suddenly said. “What happens there? Is it more like on TV? Do Backstreet Boys live there?”

“Uhhh,” I said. “I guess they must do?”

“And big stores with beautiful clothes. Like Destiny’s Child wear. And high schools.”

A sudden anger rose inside of me. She wasn’t like me at all. If anything she was more like the dumb girls in my class who wrote in each other’s diaries with worthless tiny golden locks. Giggled and looked out for boys and started doing their makeup age nine.

I ought to leave her to her destiny, because what she wanted she’d never get. 

She must have noticed, because she flinched. “Ida?” she said anxiously. “You’re not leaving, are you? And if you’re leaving, you’ll come back, right?” Every time I left she said the same thing. She said, I hate to be alone, you’ll come back soon, right? And I thought she had a need for me, and I promised her I’d return, and always hurried back. But she didn’t need me at all. Or rather, I wasn’t the one she needed. Anyone would have served the same purpose as long as they didn’t leave her on her own.

I had tears in my eyes. “You’ll never have a boyfriend, whatever you do, wherever you go! Don’t you understand that?”

“Ida, what do you mean?”

But something animal had come into her facial expression, an uncomprehending fear and rage. She got up on her misshapen legs and backed into the wall and a sound came from her throat that no human being could make.

Suddenly I felt scared. I was alone down there with an animal larger than me, an animal that could kick or bite, an animal with big round eyes in the dark.

I stood up to leave and when I’d started to walk I broke into a run. I got on my bike, on my way home, and a lone late night car, with yellow headlights, failed to see me and got so close I had to brake, lost control over my bike, thrown sideways into the gravel, face first. I glimpsed a woman with white hair behind the wheel. The car drove another twenty yards or so and came to a stop. I heard adult voices:

“… hit something?”

“I’ll go outside and check,” said the white haired woman, and slammed the car door. The headlights made apparent the silhouette of a woman in riding boots. She was holding a gun!

I crawled into the ditch like a bug and made myself as small as possible, covered by ferns and undergrowth. Moisture sucked into my t-shirt. It smelled sour, like still waters. I heard her stomping around. An injured animal on the road must be put down with a shot. That must be what she was searching for. A gross beetle crawled over my shoulder. It crawled across my face. What if it tried to crawl into my mouth? Into my ears, my nose? I held my breath. The car door slammed. The engine started, the wheels began to roll, and the sound became more and more distant. I got out of the ditch and watched the car drive up the same hill I’d just biked down. Maybe they were heading to the riding school. But this late at night?

It must have been the proprietress!

Close call, I thought. The light on my bike had shattered during the fall. I biked through the thick velvet night, with just the moon leading my way, and now and then a lit window in the low dark farmhouses beyond the fields. Finally I returned to society and to the house my parents lived in. Blue light flickered from the living room window.

This must be the time when the exciting shows were on – the ones were they killed each other and had sex. Did she watch the same ones, down there in the dark, with her mouth half open in awe? And concentrating on shaping the same words, with lips that weren’t made for them. There you are. I was looking for you all over, babe. You’re the one that I want.

The side of my body was soaked through and covered in strands of grass. I’d better get out of my clothes quickly, I thought, but the thought was no help because my mum turned up in the living room doorway, backlit by the television. “Ida!” she said. “What happened?”

And my dad, who sat on the sofa behind her back, turned his head. “What’s she done now?” he said distractedly, before he got a proper look at me. “Oh, what the hell…”

“I had an accident on my bike,” I said.

“You can say that again,” mum said. “You’re bleeding!”

I looked down. Blood had run down my legs where I’d scraped them, and down my arms. Bits of gravel were still stuck in my skin. I couldn’t think of anything to say about it. It was one of those things that just were. Now I’d be expected to react to it. I could see it in their faces. There was a reaction you were supposed to have, but I did’t know what. I must have missed my chance already.

“What’s the matter with her?” my dad roared and got out of the couch. “There’s always some fucking shit going on! Don’t you know how to ride your bike?”

“Not the first time you’ve come home covered in blood.”

“And you’ve torn your shirt. What the fuck do you need to go biking at night for?”

“Why can’t you just stay home? Can’t you go to a friend?”

“Don’t you have any friends to go to? Doesn’t anybody want you?”

“Isn’t there anyone who can bring you along, so you don’t go biking through the woods at night, every night?”

“Isn’t there anyone to protect you, take you into their warmth?”

“Isn’t there anyone who wants to share their secrets with you?”

“Isn’t there anyone to whisper, whisper in your ear…”

“Isn’t there anyone to hold your hand and ask you to follow them over the meadow…”

“Isn’t there anyone to hold your hand, and ask you to come into their room?”

“Isn’t there anyone who presses your hand in their hand and looks you in the eyes and says that they want you, isn’t there anyone who wants to share their food with you, isn’t there anyone who wants you to be there?”

“And when you walk into the darkness, doesn’t anyone cry out for you?”

I was terribly tired. I lay down between sheets of comforting cotton and thought I’ll never return to the riding school its holes and hidden corners and the smell of horse piss and sour hay I’ll never feel again. And what remained was unknown to me because I slid into dreams entirely empty without the least trace of horse nor human and neither moon nor wind-swept woods.

Then I woke up naked in sheets sticky with blood because I’d menstruated during the night. It wasn’t like I didn’t know what had happened, but there wasn’t a chance I’d ever turn to my parents for help. My mum had a few pads in the bathroom cabinet, not many, and I stole one of them and put it down my underpants. I didn’t cry until I was sitting on the toilet. But it’s like with deaf babies that scream and don’t hear themselves screaming, sooner or later they stop, because what’s the point?

It was just another humiliating thing that had happened and I was used to things like that happening.


That day was one of those endless school days that just keeps going and going and I’d kept bleeding. What I hadn’t understood was that you need to change pads pretty often and the one I was wearing stank. I didn’t get that what I could smell, other people could smell, too. The last class of the day was sewing class. The smell of rotten blood spread in the classroom. It was unavoidable.

“Do you smell that?” said one of the girls.

“Yes – what is it? What is it that smells?”

I didn’t say anything, but that’s when I realized it was me. I was sewing a pillow case. Perhaps they’d forget what they’d noticed.

“It really does smell,” another girl broke out. “Ugh, can you feel it?”

“But what is it that smells?”

“Doesn’t it smell a bit like a stable?”

“It smells like horse!”

I turned towards the last girl speaking, saw her thrilled, cruel face, and without hesitating drove my scissors into her hand, which rested on a piece of floral fabric.

“Oh my God!”

I wasn’t so strong that I did more than just sting her. But she screamed like she was getting murdered, and when I looked into her face I thought, she likes it, she likes that she’s the victim and I’m the aggressor. 

I dropped the scissors and left the classroom, ran across communal lawns and left the ugly brick buildings of the school behind me. Now I’d really fucked things up.

Aimlessly, I walked down streets, past one-floor villas with trampolines in their gardens, and in the windows, little porcelain dogs, on the lawns, barbecues. I saw letterboxes, I saw cars. I saw number signs, I saw balloons tied to a mailbox, half deflated on the ground. Some child must have had a birthday party.

The only thing I knew was that I’d be punished. I didn’t know how, just that it would be severe. Was I really supposed to turn back home? I couldn’t go back to school. But where was I supposed to go?

I thought about the proprietress, with the gun.


Late at night I returned to the riding school.

I’d pictured horrible things. That the proprietress came there to kill her, that that’s why she had the gun. I couldn’t compare this anxiety to anything else I’d felt in my entire life. Did I really intend to leave her to her suffering? If you don’t know that somebody suffers, then you simply don’t know, and then it has nothing to do with you, you’re not doing anything wrong. But when you know, you know. Then you can’t pretend not to know, and that’s what it really means to lose your innocence.

Until you know guilt, you don’t even know that you used to be innocent.

“Ida!” said the horse girl when she saw me, and opened her eyes wide. Someone had been down there, obviously; the hay had been changed, and there was a bouquet of flowers in a water glass on the floor. 

“I really hope you’re not mad at me,” I said, stressed. I’d succumbed to panic on the way there and biked like a mad person and now I was dripping with sweat. “I’m sorry about saying those mean things to you.”

“Yes, okay,” she said, hesitating. “I forgive you. I actually didn’t know if you would come back again.”

“Of course I came back,” I said.

“You sound different today.”

“Yes,” I said. I felt different too. I thought, a few days ago I was just a child, not knowing anything about freedom and responsibility. It was like my heart was gritting its teeth. “I came here just to see you,” I said. “I could take you out of here tonight, if you wanted me to.”

“What about the others?”

“There’s no one else here.”

“They’re not there at night? Mum said there were people there all the time.”

“Yes, but she lied,” I said.

“Okay,” the horse girl said and got up, slow and sleepy, until she was standing on all fours, with her odd human-like front feet pressed into the ground.

“I thought maybe I could help you out of here for good, somehow, if it’s what you want. I know maybe your life wouldn’t be as you imagine it. But maybe you could move across the countryside at night, eat grass and drink from creeks. See the moon and the stars, sleep all day! Spend the winters in abandoned barns. Uh, you can eat grass, right?”

She blinked slowly like awakening from a dream. “Yes. I can digest grass. But Ida, where will you go?”

Horses shouldn’t be alone. There ought to be a whole flock of horse girls like her who with their bizarre hands braided each other’s manes and gossiped with each other in their downtempo neighing voices. But there wasn’t.

“Please, let me come with you,” I said. “Because there’s no other place where I can be.”

“We can leave.” I didn’t often see her standing the way a horse is supposed to, because then she couldn’t make use of her hands.

I walked right by her and led her up to the stables.

Even before we came up we could feel how confused and upset they got and how they started snorting and scraping their hooves against the floor. Dear god, I thought, if you’re alive, don’t let them make a lot of noise. The strange, unreal smell made them nervous. The horse girl was nervous too. I put my hand on her withers and felt the muscles tense. Her eyes stared wildly around her. “There there,” I said, “don’t worry, it’ll all be good.”

Just the moonlight and the light from my plastic torch lit the space in front of us, full of great dark shapes moving, stinking of animal, worrying, smelling, sniffing, trying to understand what they were picking up on, neither like them nor like anything else. The stallions breathed heavily, stuck their big heads through the bars and stared at her, followed her with their eyes. Stupid animals, I thought, for the first time in my life, you don’t understand, why can’t you let her be? She tugged at me and I realized that she, despite her state, was stronger than me, much stronger. Take it easy, I whispered through grit teeth, and I did my best to calm my own self down so she wouldn’t sense my tension, think I was scared too, panic and bolt.

But as soon as we came into the moonlight, everything dropped. We stood all alone on the plateau, and had anyone looked in the direction of the riding school at that point, they would have seen us. But what would they have seen, how would they have interpreted it? A little girl with a strange little horse, a horse with a head the wrong shape but turned away too quickly for the viewer to understand anything about it. Just shapes in the dark, who silent and almost invisible disappear on the trail into the forest.

There were a lot of things she’d never seen before, and I thought she’d be more scared. But when I sat on her back and she walked slowly through the woods, nosing at shrubberies and the wounds in the trees where the sap ran down the trunk, she grew completely silent and said nothing for a long time. She must have felt the smell of things like wet cold moss, sweet dead animals rotting among the trees, shrooms pushing their way up through the ground. There were things I’d never know in the same way. All I knew was how it felt to be a human, to have a body with feet and hands, and to sit on somebody’s back.

In case we got lost I’d brought the atlas over Sweden that my mother used sometimes when she drove us far away to our summer cabin.I thought we could move along the side of the roads at night, steal food from the dumpsters outside the truck stops and gas stations that lined the big roads, and maybe we could go south, to Scania, and see the beechwood forests and the ocean, or go north, see the deep dark woods in summer, cross the border to Finland, and my hair would become long and tangled like that of a beast, I would become as tall as an adult woman and nobody would recognize me as a human. You noticed, during long night-time car journeys, that Sweden was nothing but little pools of electric light spread out on a big blanket of darkness and emptiness. Between these communities, these sparse human habitations, there was nothing; and this nothing took you into its mouth and swallowed you into the warm protection of the lonely.

We were at the edge of the woods and I whispered happily about all of this when I felt her grow stiff and all muscles froze, because of course she heard the voices of humans before I did. A terrible noise came from the stables. The breathing and neighing of horses. What did they sense that I did not?

“It’s my mum,” the horse girl said, “She always said, my little girl, I’ll always know where you are, if anything’s happened to you – such is a mother’s intuition.”

“Come on then, run,” I said, and in a cruel moment I wished I’d had spurs or a whip or anything really to drive into her flesh and get her to move. What’s wrong with a horse that doesn’t run away from danger?

“I can’t run,” she whispered, horrified.

“Come on, yes you can,” I said, because I heard the voices closing in and the blood rushing in my ears. “Please, please, just do it.” A shot rang out and now I actually panicked and kicked my heels as hard as I could into her sides. Shocked, she broke into a run, down the gravel hill, while I clung to her muscular neck and was thrown back and forth on her back.

I heard another shot, and at first I thought a stone had hit me on the leg, that we’d kicked up some pieces of gravel; I didn’t realize I’d been shot until another shot hit my friend in the shoulder and she whinnied and threw me off and the last thing I saw was how she galopped into the woods, before I cracked my skull open against the trunk of a birch tree.


I’m not one to say what happened after it all went black that night.

For several weeeks I floated in and out of pain and morphine highs at the hospital, dreaming long white dreams about sand dunes and dark waters and now and then people came to visit and talked by the side of my bed as if I wasn’t there, but there was no way for me to relate to what they said.

“… if she hadn’t…”

“… enough trying, we ought to…”

A sad figure looked at me; its body was that of a human, but its head was that of a horse, and it couldn’t say anything to me. The mist returned, the voices:

“… these women, you know what they…”

“… even if you explained, nobody would..:”

Now the proprietress of the riding school was sitting at my bedside. It was like I saw her in a dream. Like seeing a dead person who visits you to warn you. I don’t know why she appeared so clearly, when all the others were just obscure mumbling shadows.

“Little Ida,” she said. She sat stern and tall on the chair. The funny thing is, she was still in her riding clothes, even wearing the helmet, and her long white hair hung in a braid across her shoulder. She had a whip on her lap. “You might think I’m a vengeful person. That I’ve come here to threaten you.”

I couldn’t answer her, just lie in bed and stare. My body seemed to have become part machine, with all the tubes coming in and out of it.

The proprietress walked over to me and looked straight into my face. I saw her bloodshot eyes, the wrinkles around the mouth. She stroked my hair and her hand was cool and dry like paper. “There’s one thing you should know. There’s no need for me to threaten you. As soon as you try to explain to anyone what you’ve experienced, you’ll soon realize that what you’ve been through, no person will believe in. There are such experiences. Experiences that separate you from everyone else alive, because you can never share them.”

The next time I woke up there was an extravagant bouquet of flowers on the bedside table, dropping leaves and pollen onto the bedding. A card stuck out, and the card said:

GET WELL SOON IDA!

FROM ALL OF US AT THE RIDING SCHOOL.


Many years later when I travelled through Härjedalen with my research group to study bat migration patterns across northern Sweden, we came across a whole troop of riders on the road. We stood there in our windbreakers, wet with dew, and watched them trotting by, one after one; proud they looked down on us from the backs of the horses, girls in riding boots, with braids hanging down their backs.

What I felt then, I can’t explain. One of my colleagues muttered with a lowered voice, “Well well, you sure know what those women really do with their horses.”

“What?” I said, ice cold. “I actually haven’t got the faintest idea!”

and he looked away, embarrassed.

“Don’t take it so badly, Ida,” somebody said.

It was just because I used to ride.

Asleep in my single bed I gazed through the window and into the woods. I stuck my hand through the window, into the night. And under the palm of my hand I felt the manes of horses, horses riding free, free through the whole night, riding free through the country.


Text: Zola Gorgon
Image: From The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes, Edward Topsell, 1607