by Birgitta Hjalmarson

Fylgia Chapter One Excerpt

Dec, 2018


I STILL GO to the grave. My younger self runs ahead. I follow, cutting through the forest and staying away from the country road. An old woman in a beret and a tweed jacket.

Anemones cover the graveyard in the spring. Songbirds nest in the church ruin and the bird-cherry tree smells of bitter almonds. By midsummer the dog rose blooms. Dry branches crack in the meadow below, as the brown cows seek shade under the old apple trees.

Buttercups and thistles still stand after the cows have grazed around them. Newborn calves, hidden by their mothers, lie motionless in the underbrush.

In the autumn, when the birches blaze orange and red, school children come through the gate with their notepads and crayons. Their voices ring in the air, high and eager. As I watch, they copy the writings on the granite slabs that mark the graves. They scream and run when they think they see ghosts. I recognize the fear in their eyes. And I remember.

In late October snow begins to fall. For a few months the graveyard is draped in white. A fir shakes, as a solitary moose pushes out of the forest, snow stippling his tufted winter coat. He stops and turns his head in the direction he came from, his nostrils quivering, as if something back there still holds his attention. His dark antlers catch the light, and he trots down into the meadow, whirling up a cloud of powdery snow.

The grave is marked by an iron cross, the letters raised and covered with gold. “Ingrid, 1918.” She was not long on this earth and yet she suffered more than any human should. I failed to protect her once. I cannot leave her now.

Fredrik, the child’s father, is buried next to her. They carried out his wishes, even though the soil was much too shallow and the rock underneath made the coffin tilt. This morning some animal, most likely a badger, had dug ruts around his stone. I have heard about badgers burrowing under graves and bringing up bones. As far as I am concerned, they may as well finish their task. I did not want him buried here.


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