The cabin was freezing, and Erling shut the door firmly against the wind, taking off his coat and stuffing it into the crack at the bottom of the door. Olav stood behind the wooden rocking chair by the fireplace, his knuckles white and his teeth clenched with pain from his wounded leg. Erling grasped his shoulder briefly before turning to the hearth. Within a few moments, the crackling of the logs could be heard. Erling rubbed his hands together before laying them over the newborn flame.
«Here?» Olav whispered, his voice low and full. Erling turned to the bed. Olav sat with his hands gripping the edge, toes turned toward each other.
Olav’s kisses intoxicated him. With each one, Erling lost more of his consciousness, until all that existed were Olav’s lips, and he could not tell whether he was kissing them lightly or biting them, could not tell where the other’s face ended and his own began. He drew his hands from Olav’s face, and took his hand to lead him to the cabin. Olav followed wordlessly, a look on his face that was full of wonder, and of something else.
«You boys take care of yourselves. Remember the address of my brother’s house, and write to me when you can. You can write, can’t you?»
Before Erling could respond, Olav spoke up. «Yes, ma’am. Godspeed on your journey.»
She hoisted her basket onto the cart and swung up onto the seat. She looked down at the two of them, and her eyes shone as if she might weep again, but no tears came. Without a word, she clicked to the horse and turned out toward to the long road into town.
The wind had picked up, and now it whistled through the space between them, picking up Olav’s blond hair and slapping it against his forehead. He looked out toward the fjord.
They were close now, so close that Erling could smell the remnants of stolen whiskey from the Governor’s cabinet on Olav’s long black coat, and the memory of that moment of small triumph triggered a flood of relief. The realization of their escape finally set in. They were free.
Erling looked down at his hands, in the gloves 0ystein’s mother had left them, wet in the spots where snowflakes had landed and melted. Olav’s hand moved over his, and Erling looked up into his eyes. Suddenly, Olav shifted lightly and brushed his lips against Erling’s. Erling kissed them, tentatively, at first, then with more passion. They were soft, and full, and warm. His hands moved of their own accord, pulling Olav into his chest, closing the gap, giving the wind no more room.
When he came to, he was under the covers in the bed. Erling sat in the rocking chair, eating greedily out of the pot, food dribbling down his chin as he mashed his spoon into the stew. The woman was pacing back and forth, her thin hands clasping and unclasping.
«It was him, you are sure it was him?»
«Yes, Mrs. 0ystein. We joked many times – I mean, he mentioned that you lived here, on the other side of the fjord. It must be your son.»
«And you say he escaped?»
Olav sat up, pushing backwards onto his elbows. He looked at Erling, who finally put down his spoon.
«No, ma’am. I don’t know how to say it. –»
«He was killed, ma’am. They killed him as he tried to escape with us.» Olav spoke quietly, but he looked steadily into her eyes. The sincerity of his gaze convinced her, and she crumpled onto the floor. Erling picked her up, gently, and placed her in the chair.
«What shall I do?», she wailed. «It broke my heart when he had to go away, but they said he would come back, that it was just to reform him, make him better behaved. I never heard from him, and I prayed every day that he would come back, a good boy, but with the same spirit.»
Olav murmured soothingly to her, but Erling strode outside into the cold.
The sun, which had stalked them throughout most of the night and day, was finally faltering by the time they saw signs of civilization.
Smoke puffed from the roof of an old wooden shack, so decrepit that human inhabitation seemed improbable. With the military on the hunt behind them, they had no option but to try.
Erling knocked on the door, his teeth chattering.
«Hallo?» It was a woman’s voice.
The door opened into the cabin. A tall woman looked out over them, her eyes hard and her manner guarded. Strangers in these parts, at this time of year, were not to be trusted.
Behind her, a small fireplace crackled, and a small pot hung over it, filling the room with a smell that seemed heavenly to the famished boys. The room was furnished sparsely, but it was clean. The table was simple, and the only other furniture in the room was a long iron bed and a wooden rocking chair. A bowl of potatoes sat on the table, steaming, next to a thick glass filled with beer.
«C-19! Stand up!» Olav’s voice cracked, parched by the frost. And then the hand shot up again. Pulling at anything he could grasp, a sleeve, a wrist, the blond boy wrestled the darker one out of the water and onto the ice sheet.
They lay panting on the ice, chests heaving from the effort. Underneath, the ice began to fissure.
«Come, Erling!» Arms slung around each other’s shoulders, Olav wincing from the pain in his right leg, the boys stumbled across the fjord.
dette er for min venn Izzie, som møtte meg på skipet
“Legemlig Refselse med Slag af Birkeris, intil 12 Slag paa den blottede Bag”
(corporal punishment with 12 birch strokes, until blood appears)
—actual instructions for the punishment of boys at Bastøy reform school, Norway, 1915
The ice underneath was cracking faster now, and the smooth chilled surface gave Olav no traction. He could only press his body into the ice sheet and grab Erling’s hand with all his might.
«Take my hand! »
Silence. A faint gurgle rose from the water, and Olav felt Erling’s grip loosen, until his hand was grasping a limp wrist. Fear rushed into Olav’s heart, and anger.
The harshest words he knew stole out of his throat. «Coward! What have they done to you?!»
From the abyss, he felt a pulse quicken.
King of Devil’s Island || Breath of Life :: Florence + The Machine
I was looking for a breath of life,
A little touch of heavenly light,
But all the choirs in my head sang, “no”
King of Devil’s Island || Born to Die :: Lana Del Rey
Choose your last words,
This is the last time,
Cause you and I, we were born to die.