Chapter 1 – The Lodge

It was a stark grey three story industrial rectangle.

‘I’d rather be dead than in this place,’ Jon thought. ‘I’ll die here in some cold sterile bed, instead of at home with my Harriet. Or at least with her ghost. I can’t breathe here; this place is like a coffin with me buried alive inside it.’

The thought of it sparked his claustrophobia. He began to sweat.

“I will see you soon my love,” he said.

Friday morning

Breakfast time at the ‘place’. The Lodge it was called. It was not like any lodge he knew of. Not like the hunting lodge in the deep woods at the edge of the green lake, surrounded by the tall pines that waved gentle in the wind. He and Harriet and their boy Magnus went there sometimes, on summer holidays, to fish for trout and hike the meadows. Not like the ski lodge halfway up the snow covered mountain that he and Harriet visited, when they were still young enough to ski. This place was a long grey block, a three story high concrete rectangle, sharp cornered. An institution, like a prison.

Walden brought him early to check him in then buggered off somewhere and left him alone in this strange place. Jon sat by himself at a table for four, up against the tall window in the dining hall, looking out over an open field from the third floor of ‘The Lodge’.

“I go home,” an old woman at a near table whispered to him.

“What? Are you speaking to me?” Jon turned, from gazing out the window, to see a small elderly Chinese woman, in a wheelchair, sitting at the table next to him. He wasn’t sure if she was talking to him or just babbling into thin air. Her three ‘non-Chinese’ companions were chatting over breakfast, all three continuously talking at the same time, all three with white hair perfectly coiffed, as if they had just made their way from the hairdresser, all of them dressed smartly for their breakfast outing, in The Lodge dining hall.

“I go home,” she whispered again, her head tilted towards Jon, her smiling eyes blinking quickly. Mrs. Chin’s hair was mostly still black as night, a noticeable contrast to her table mates.

“What? Speak up,” Jon said with an annoyed frown.

“She doesn’t speak English,” Mrs. Remple said, interrupting the group chat with her other companions.

“Soon,” Mrs. Chin said, leaning even closer towards Jon, smiling broadly, a blue eyetooth showing as she relayed her secret.

Harald Bluetooth instantly came to Jon’s mind at the sight of her tooth, a lone dark soldier standing attention amidst her otherwise pearly whites. He had taught about Bluetooth and many other Viking legends, though Bluetooth wasn’t high on the syllabus.

“Sounds like English to me,” Jon said as he returned his gaze out the tall third floor window, to see a boy throwing a frisbee in high arching loops over the open field. The boy’s dog chased and fetched the plastic disc, returning it obediently to his master after every throw. Tirelessly, both boy and dog. The boy was maybe twelve; the dog one of those really smart, fast dogs, that can herd sheep and probably understands at least six human languages.

‘I used to do that,’ Jon thought. ‘When I was that age. Though I tossed a stick, not a plastic saucer. And my dog was a brown mongrel, not a sheep herder dog. What was his name? Probably something mundane, like Spot or Fido.’

The dog’s name was Roger, son of Rex; named Roger after the radio call sign.

He turned back to look at the Chinese woman. Mrs. Chin was tiny, a bit frail, but her eyes still held the spark and bright innocence of youth long past. A friendly lady, sort of.

‘She looks a bit like Harriet, except for the eyes, and hair and she is much smaller. Poor Harriet. Or maybe she looks like Hallveig. Yes, Hallveig, Snorri’s last wife. Or at least what I’ve always imagined she looked like, with those exotic shaped eyes.’

A short Filipino woman, also with smiling eyes and a broad smile, dressed in starched pink scrubs, placed a bowl of oatmeal sprinkled with blueberries on the table in front of Jon.

“Just as your son said you liked, Mr. Magnusson,” she said. “Your room is ready; I’ll take you after your breakfast.”

“He’s my grandson,” Jon scowled. “My son is dead. And never mind, I already know where that room is.”

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