The Long and Spectacular Life of Agnes Magnusdottir 17
After having been so forcibly and humiliatingly expelled by McPhearson and his cronies I made my way back to the library, stopping only at a florists I came across quite by chance. The bright pots outside made me think of Eldur and I wanted to get him something for the hospitality he had shown me the day before.
"It's for you," I wrote. Then I wrote in case it wasn't obvious. "The plant. It likes lots of sunlight and you have to water it well in the growing season."
Eldur’s cheeks went a pleasant pink colour which I took to mean he was pleased with the present.
"I’ve been meaning to say. I was very sorry to hear about your father’s death. Many years ago I took my mother to see the woolly mammoth he discovered when it was on display down at the Natural History museum. To think that such things once existed on this earth. It puts our own tiny lives into perspective, doesn't it?"
I nodded my head. That was quite a time in my life. As a birthday treat my father had taken me to see the magnificent beast before the exhibition had officially opened to the general public and he had even gone so far as to encourage me climb up and sit on its back. For a moment I had felt all powerful, I was a caveman on the hunt, and I had raised my arms in the air and whooped with joy. Then I had fallen.
It wasn't my father’s fault I had broken both my arms and knocked out my two front teeth, but at the school’s instigation, they were always on the lookout for abuse, Social Services had become involved and for two weeks I had been put in a care establishment while an investigation was carried out.
I had hated it.
The other boys, most of them from abusive homes themselves, had decided I was an easy target and ribbed me remorselessly.
They would ask how I could wipe my arse with two broken arms and then they would pull down my trousers and pants and goad me into giving a demonstration.
At night things were even worse. I had yet to visit the dentist to have my missing front teeth replaced and the gap this formed at the front of my mouth, it seemed to have been unanimously decided, was perfect for sliding their members in, each boy taking it in turns while my head was held firmly in place. It was an experience that I would never forget.
As I was still visibly shuddering Eldur said.
"Listen, tomorrow night there’s a bit of a gathering. Me and some other Icelandic émigrés meet up once in a while. You can come along if you want. I'll put word out about what you're doing and maybe something will turn up. You never know. You could find exactly the clue you are looking for. I bet your father didn't find the woolly mammoth first time!”
The First Translation. Zelig Krüger’s Diary. Pages 1, 2 and 3.
I am keeping this diary in case something ’life-threatening’ should happen to me. Today I have been summoned to a private audience with none other than Herr Wolf himself.
What good can come of this?
No lowly functionary has ever been called to see Wolf and come back undamaged in some way. As I leave my desk and head towards the stairs my colleagues give me baleful looks but no one says anything. Who wants to be associated with a condemned man? Who wants to follow in his footsteps? Maybe this is already the end...
It is not the end!
Thanks to the stars or the fates or whatever it is people believe in these days I am still alive.
All I can think of now is, "Why me?"
As I stood before Wolf, he is extremely fat you understand, like four people stitched together inside a single sack of skin, he fixed me with that famous dead-eye stare of his and said, almost bellowed, his cheeks flaring a bright red colour. "Books. We have a problem with books."
Announcement made he reached down under his chair and brought up a pile of shabby paperbacks the whole lot of which he tossed across his desk, some of them spilling off and tumbling to the floor.
I don't mind admitting I was by this stage shaking like a shitting dog. Books, as you well know, are like bombs, dangerous to be in the room with and liable to go off.
"These objects," and the word ’objects’ was said in the most disdainful manner, "were recovered from the homes of despicable agitators against the Directorate."
Wolf slammed one of his massive fists down on the table.
"Despite our best effort it appears that certain of them remain in regular circulation. And we all know what the problem with books is, don't we?”
I must have been expected to say something then. It was too late that I realised. Wolf lent forward and pointed one of his sausage fingers at me.
“The ideas contained within these pages give these agitators ideas. Ideas which are of a detriment to our harmonious society. That is the problem. The problem to which I believe I have found the solution." He smiled then, a smile which sent a shiver of fear down my spine. "Which is why I have called you to me my dear Krüger. I believe you can help."
Wolf’s office is on the very top floor of our building and from its windows I could see the whole of the city spread out before me. Quite frankly, I wished I was anywhere but where I was right then. Being the answer to Wolf’s problem I was sure would be a problem for me. A big huge massive one.
"I liked what you did on Article 36.”
Wolf raised a hand to his face and squeezed the pointed end of the left side of his long moustache.
"And Article 19 Subsection 12. You have a clear and precise way of putting things. Don’t think it hasn't been noticed. Or that good work will go unrewarded." He clapped his hands together almost boyishly. "Come I have a job for you."
Wolf raised himself and with quick nimble steps, surprising for a man of his immense size, he took me over to the far side of his room where stood a larger than life statue of a naked man. Reaching up he twisted the willy of this naked man and hey presto, like something out of a fairy tale, a section of the wall opened up before us to reveal the metal cage of a lift carriage.
"It shows the faith I have in you that I am showing you this. Not many people know about this at all."
As the doors rattled closed and we began our descent only a single thought was in my head.
I am going to die. To know of this secret will never be to my benefit.
I blinked once and then again. But it couldn't be.
The journey had been long, I had drifted off a number of times before waking abruptly with my face pressed against the cold glass of the car window, and now we had arrived I wasn't at all sure I wasn't still asleep.
Before us was a richly gravelled drive leading towards a large square building. Spotlights on each of its corners lit it quite magnificently allowing no single square of shade.
“It is rather, isn't it?”
Eldur appeared from around the side of his old Ford carrying a large holdall.
"The first time I saw it I thought the same thing. What the Ministry of Complaints must have looked like in its heyday! That’s one of the reasons we chose it if I'm honest.”
Eldur held up the holdall.
“Don't worry. I've brought supplies for you too. Pants, socks and anything you might need. I should have made it clear. We will be staying the night.”
He looked towards me then in a way that a stranger might have thought harsh but now that I knew him I took for his own brand of sympathy, an interpretation that was borne out by his words.
“You look like you could do with a break. I've never seen anyone looking quite so done in. Are you sure you're quite well? We don't want you going the same way as your father now, do we?”
It was a hotel, of course, although it lacked the usual hotel paraphernalia I was used to. There were no tall potted plants, no free maps and there wasn't even one of those wooden slot boards that all hotels seem to have holding leaflets that advertise local attractions no sane person would ever go to unless they had several small children who needed entertaining in tow.
The whole place exuded a buttoned up and reserved class and charm and in this it was like Eldur himself. I could understand immediately why he liked it here but what had I been brought along for? The whole Icelandic emigres scenario sounded suddenly like a ruse. After all, where were they?
It came to me then that Eldur might be planning first to seduce me and then skewer me with his penis? And why not? On either of our parts…
It was some years since Zara and I had had any kind of sexual encounter. Wasn't that exactly why I had debased myself with that man in the train station toilets, letting him squat his fetid arse on my face while he had beat furiously at his meat? Now Zara was gone, if she was gone, then why shouldn't I allow myself to indulge in some new adventure? Who was going to stop me?
Our room, even the numbers on the door looked expensive, was at the end of a thickly carpeted corridor on the third floor and overlooked a courtyard containing a full size Viking longboat brightly illuminated under spotlights. It wouldn't take too much of an imaginative leap to see those Norse seafarers in it, pulling at the oars, taut muscles rippling, sweat pouring down their toned bodies. This was the exact beginning of a kind of fantasy I had had night after night as a teenage boy. We had lived by the sea back then and if I was going to escape then I had always imagined it would be across water. There was no way I could go on my own so why shouldn't someone come for me?
"Now don't take this the wrong way.”
Spinning around I caught Eldur hopping from foot to foot. Some plush red material hung from his left arm down to the ground.
"You need to take off all your clothes and put this on. You’ll see what it’s all about in the end. I promise you won't be disappointed. And if you are, no harm done. If you don't live your life to the maximum output available what can you do?”
I felt extremely self-conscious as I removed my clothes, brought back to a reality of myself so far distant from the catamite plaything of Norse warriors. One time, Zara having forwarded me as a joke yet another one of those spam emails that promise a larger penis, I had paid for a two hundred pound private consultation at a surgery in the capital.
The doctor there, walrus moustache et al, after examining me with a range of cold instruments had concluded by saying I was ‘well within the national range of average’. He had even taken out a chart and pointed to a point that I thought was way too way far to the left.
I was not reassured and I had a feeling I was not supposed to be. The whole thing felt like a setup but the price, I found out, when I enquired how much it would be to be go ahead with the procedure was way out of my range and I had returned home with my tail between my legs. Or not. My tail not being long enough to stretch between my legs. That was part of the problem.
“I say, are you quite alright?”
Eldur, wearing his own gown already and looking rather dapper, was standing by the open door of the room looking back over to where I remained quite motionless.
“Come now. Trust me. I would not do anything to your demerit. This is going to be the most fun. I promise you.”
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