"Javisst Ska Han Leva Uti Hundrade År!"
[Eli and Oskar, associated characters, and their back-stories prior to this narrative, are the intellectual property of John Ajvide Lindqvist. The concept of this story, and associated original characters, the storyline and dialogue are © Copyright 2012 to the credited Author.]
Tuesday, November 24th 1981.
Oskar Eriksson woke shivering. Today was going to be the most special day of his life. The excitement quickened his heart pace. Today was his thirteenth birthday. Today, he was sure his vampire friend Eli would "turn him" and admit him to the other side, becoming a vampire. He shivered himself awake like a tiny bird, up in the tree-house he had built, in the woods near Blackeberg, Stockholm. The dim early morning Sun filtered in through unplugged slats and holes, just enough to see around him.
He leaned into the naked back of Eli, the vampire, his one and only true friend. He pressed his ear up close. He could hear the very slow thump-beat of Eli's heart, and the dim sonar-like echo a few seconds later, rebound off Eli's vampire heart.
Since taking flight after the events earlier that month, Eli had taught him to lower his heart rate. It had helped in his survival. Winter had kicked in early and viciously that year. Oskar had learned some of the 'tricks of the trade' off Eli. In his own mind he thought of it as being preparation for what was surely to come today, his initiation as a vampire.
'Bulleri bulleri buck, hur många horn står upp?' Oskar ran his fingers up the smooth, cold as graveyard headstone of Eli's back.
Eli replied, testily. 'Go back to sleep, Oskar. It's too early.'
Oskar knew intuitively what Eli meant. 'It's too early.' Maybe Eli meant later in the day? Eli would spring it on him as a surprise. That was his intuition. Intuition was one of the vampire skills he had been learning off Eli.
Oskar hoped it would his initiation would be before his reunion meeting with his Mama, later that day. Their first get-together since he fled civilised society as a fugitive from justice. She would smile and say 'Hey Oskar! My little boy is a young man now. How you have grown. And what big teeth you have!' Oskar grew excited and restless. She would add 'I do hope you are still flossing, regularly. Your friend Eli looks like he could do with a visit to an orthodontist.' Oh dear. Oskar sighed. His hot breath formed a mist cloud in the sharp morning air. He guessed Mamas would always be Mamas, even when you have become a vampire.
Oskar felt happy. Even though his meeting with Mama was in late afternoon in a park, she would understand, what with him being a vampire and all. He reflected and 'visualised'.
He was proud of himself. 'Visualisation', running a scene through you mind like a film was a key vampire survival skill.
He saw himself there, sitting on a park bench while Mama fussed over him. Sugar! She was sure to have baked him a cake. He must be polite and accept a slice to eat in front of her. Oskar's face contorted. He hoped that being a vampire wouldn't mean he would throw it all up, immediately in front of her. That would be VERY bad form, and vampires pride themselves on their good manners.
As always, Eli would fly to his rescue. 'Oh Mrs Eriksson, how thoughtful, and how sweet, it's almost like a wedding cake. How amusing! I just love the raspberry ripple effect. It would be a shame to cut it here, under these circumstances. Oskar and I will take it home to enjoy. With each bite we will remember you fondly. We are sure to revisit you soon. Mmm. Love the fragrance. Is that Chanel?
Mama would laugh. She would be charmed. This wasn't what she had ever wished for, or hoped for her son. Gay maybe, but a vampire, I mean like what? Oskar, confused, draped his arm over Eli for comfort, and descended the snowy slope back into sleep.
The first shafts of sunlight were breaking through the windows of the austere building in Kungsholmen, the archipelago island that connected to the outer suburbs of Stockholm, including Blackeberg. In a conference room on the third floor of the building, a smartly dressed woman shuffled papers at the head of the table. This was the Säkerhetspolisen Headquarters, SÄPO, the State Security Service of Sweden.
The woman had turned forty but looked ten years younger. Sara Molin, Riksminister of Justice. A promising business lawyer, turned astute politician at an early age.
Today her reputation was staked on resolution of the so-called 'Blackeberg Affair.' After today her career and the future lives of Oskar and Eli would change forever. She knew it, and meant to be the one who would come out on top, whatever the outcome. Sara glanced at her Rolex and called to the man by the window. 'Time to issue battle orders. Call them in.'
Sven Gustafsson, Director of 'Lamda' Division had been gazing out of the window of SÄPO HQ, onto Polhemsgatan below. A self-assured man in his early forties, as always took all account of the detail. He picked up the table telephone and quietly summoned the other members of the 'Taskforce'.
Today looked like being a bright sunny day, although there had been another unexpected heavy snowfall overnight. He detected over on the horizon beyond Kronobergsparken, a blue-grey dullness punctuated by an odd sulphurous-yellow and reddish hue. 'Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning'. He recalled the adage. He hoped the latent storm would blow back into the Baltic. It was not a good omen. He would check.
In ones and twos they shuffled into the room. Upon taking their seats round the conference table, the low, polite murmuring subsided. Some brushed nervously through the pile of papers set out for each. Sara Molin spoke, all eyes upon her.
'Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your early attendance at this action briefing. I know some of you know one another, and others do not. This is our opportunity to coalesce. I realise that you have not all been consulted at every point. Feel free to interrupt me if you have comments or questions. We have had to move quickly. Today is our best shot for ending the so-called ''Blackeberg Affair''. You all have a key part to play in ''Operation Bamse''…'
'Why give a deadly operation such a cute name?' The disgruntled voice belonged to Mikael Hallman, Överdirektör of the Stockholm lans Police. A few round the table nodded, and murmured.
'I chose to give it a more user-friendly name to enlist the collaboration of the boy Oskar's mother, in this sting operation. She had to be re-assured.'
'Because, Överdirektör, you threatened her that unless she co-operated, she would never see her boy alive again.'
'And the truth is?'
Sandra Molin put on her politician's mask. 'Oskar's chances of survival are greatly enhanced by her active participation. Although, in reality, she is unlikely to ever hold him in her arms again. We have also, successfully engaged the services of a Herr Ávila, a P.E. instructor who will be there, who Oskar respects. We have prior queries on him through his engagement as a pilot in the War. He didn't take much persuading. It will be like taking candy off a baby.'
'Minister. May I clarify the main objective?' The chilled voice belonged to Överstelöjtnant Kurt Ahlgren, Head of the Army Kommando Unit.
Molin assented. 'To take down the operatives known as Eli and Oskar, and terminate the "Blackeberg Affair."
'Excuse me, Minister.' Dr Freda Freyer, consultant in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Karolinska Institutet spoke. 'Do you mean, to "take down" … or maybe "take out" … or preferably "take in" the suspects? I thought that is why I was involved?'
Molin nodded cautiously. 'We have to be prepared for all eventualities.'
'And what if it all goes belly-up?' The pinched voice belonged to PolisIntendent Gunnar Johansson of the RiksKriminalPolisen, overweight, spaded into his dress uniform, the first time for a year.
For a moment the Minister lost her cool. 'Then PolisIntendent Johansson, this time tomorrow, you and I, and everyone seated round this table will be looking for new career opportunities.'
Sven Gustafsson, the SÄPO supremo intervened on her behalf. 'Frankly, the RKP have turned up nothing but dust. That is why the case has been handed to the Säkerhetspolisen to co-ordinate.'
'With all due respect to SÄPO … ' Johansson cut in, not meaning a word of it. 'The RKP doesn't have your resources, and there are special difficulties with this case.'
'What difficulties?' The abrupt remark came from the military, Överstelöjtnant Ahlgren.
Johansson's cheek colour flushed. Överdirektör Hallman stepped in to avoid a conflagration. 'People on the run, let alone kids, leave traces. They have to travel, that exposes them to observation by others. We have next to nothing.'
Överstelöjtnant Ahlgren resumed 'Then maybe the RKP have been inadequate to the task, unless, of course these enemy agents are flying around on broomsticks?'
Johansson choked. Eva Grahn, the legal adviser to the Task Group interjected 'Technically speaking, that would be witches rather than vampires. Wouldn't it?' Her intervention was received in silence.
Hallman broke in. 'The last contact we have, faded out in Nynäshamn. They broke into a summer house. The owner went back to check on things. Nothing disturbed, apart from a kit-box of woodworking tools stolen.'
Sven Gustafsson uncharacteristically, attempted some levity. 'Then perhaps, according to the ''Vampire Theory'' they needed to build themselves new coffins to sleep in?''
Överdirektör Hallman intervened. 'Perhaps SÄPO could explain the linkages? We know they have taken victims. In Karlstad, we found back-links to a pedophile group. In Bagarmossen, they hung out with a squat of illegal immigrants. In Södermalm, they got some shelter from a hippie commune. We got damn-all out of these contacts. These kids seem to be using some sort of unnatural "mind control".
'What about the boy's father, up in Norrtälje?' The query came from Maxine Hemstedt, Professor of Forensic Psychology at Stockholm University.
'Exactly!' Hallman's pudgy fist smashed down onto the table. 'We couldn't get any sense out of him. He was a drunkard before all this. Now he is totally gaga.'
PolisIntendent Johansson attempted to put it more professionally. 'We investigated. We know the boy Oskar was up there. But there was only evidence of food being eaten and sleeping arrangements for one other. Herr Eriksson insisted there was another BOY with Oskar. Like a ghost vision occluded his eye. We put this down to deleriens tremens.
Jessica Solberg concurred. 'Like his father, Oskar has a complex psychopathology. We must ensure that he does not infect other vulnerable adolescents.'
Överstelöjtnant Ahlgren slipped into the silence. 'Minister, I think it is time to move on. We all have a role to play today. It will be difficult. I have troops on stand-by. I am extremely concerned at their choosing of afternoon twilight for their rendez-vous. It may suit vampires, whether or not, it doesn't suit us. It's in an open space, a pocket park, and there will be other children around on their way from school. Possible blizzard conditions even.'
Sara Molin regained her command. 'I'm sorry, but I've had to arrive at a single view. Oskar and Eli, have been brainwashed, unwittingly, whatever you call it, as Soviet agents. It's all linked to the Soviet submarine affair. It's like the UFO scares in the USA in the nineteen-fifties. It's psychological warfare, calculated to cause disruption. Everyday some idiot turns himself into the police, claiming to be a vampire, as justification for his killing. Södersjukhuset psychiatric wing has had to open a special unit just to cope. This is generating panic on the streets fuelled up by the media. Eli has NO history, maybe smuggled in through Riga, maybe ex-prostitute. Oskar a bullied kid, kept a journal on serial killers, a nut-job just right for turning. Let's just forget the vampire-scenario. It's a smokescreen.'
Professor Hemstedt spoke up. 'Minister. You are overlooking important forensic evidence.'
'What evidence?' Gustafsson asked pointedly.
Hemstedt threw up her hands. 'We know they have taken victims, since they took flight.'
Överdirektör Hallman interrrupted. 'Do you know how many drunks, punks, junkies, and whores are pulled out of the Mälaren each year? No-one gives a damn. Rubber-stamp autopsies. This is just take-away pizza to these kids. They have to be terminated. Period.''
'NO!' Dr. Freyer exclaimed.
For a moment everyone sat in stunned silence.
Maxine Hemstedt, chose this time for her masterstroke. 'We have been comparing traces taken from the original Blackeberg victims, like Jocke Bengtsson, and recent unexplained murders. There were strong traces of saliva mixed in with the blood. It didn't come from the victims. Nothing like we've ever seen before. Barely human, anyway. One thing that really showed pointed strongly in a different direction. There was the presence of something biologically resembling Hementin.''.
'I got an old contact from Eskilstuna Zoo to look at our saliva samples. It's very closely related to Haementaria Ghiliani, a kind of giant Amazon leech' Hementin is a powerful blood anti-coagulent.
'So we are looking to go arrest a big leech now?'
'There is a strong correlation with what we might expect from a vampire'.
'Let's NOT turn the clock back'.
'We need more time'.
'We don't have time'. Riksminister Molin, got up from the conference table, and the others rose in deference.
'The goal is, to apprehend, Oskar and Eli, and take them into secure custody. We'll sweat the truth out of them about their Soviet masters. After that they may stand a chance for rehabilitation in the future. But for now, we must focus on their capture. If they take flight they will be followed in close pursuit, with full police and army manpower. They will have one opportunity to turn themselves over. Any threat to the public during this operation or refusal to comply, the protocol is clear. They will be terminated. We have a long day ahead. Let's grab some breakfast.'
Up in the makeshift tree-house, Eli punched Oskar Eriksson, hard. Oskar startled, awoke. Eli had rolled over and now purred softly, like a kitten.
'What did you do that for!?'
Eli opened one eye. Without facing Oskar he growled. 'You snore like a piglet.'
'No I do not!'
'How would you know?'
'Mmm. Mmmmm.' Oskar grasped for a reason. 'Because my Mama would have told me.'
'No, she wouldn't. She's your Mama, she's put up with a lot.'
'Yes she would.'
Oskar chewed on his lip. 'Well then my Papa would have told me.'
There was a long pause. Eli avoided the truth. 'Vampires purr, politely, on occasion, about once every ten years. They DO NOT snore like pigs round a trough.'
Oskar smacked Eli hard on the butt. Its slap resounded like hitting a marble sculpture.
Eli turned over. His blue-green eyes drew Oskar in like a summons. 'Oskar, let go of your past. Your Papa is an alcoholic. That is a living death.'
Oskar's eyes welled up with tears. He blubbered 'Is that worse than being a vampire? Sometimes, I HATE you!'
Eli smiled and stroked Oskar's cheek. 'And sometimes you LOVE me.'
Oskar shook his head from side-to-side. 'Then MAKE me a vampire like you!'
Eli looked serious for a moment. 'I wouldn't do that unless there were no options left. Only if it were a dire emergency, threatening your life. You have to meet your Mama today. There IS a way back for you, but not for me.'
Oskar stretched himself out, legs and arms akimbo. His throat presented to Eli as a gift for the taking. His eyes whirling madly like a virgin, a mixture of anticipation and apprehension. 'I'm holding you back. I can't live out of dustbins anymore. I'm slowing you down, they'll catch us. DO IT!' he yelled.
A rising magma of love and blood-lust built up inside Eli's head like a volcano about to explode. His eyes excreted tears of blood. His body and bones within his thin frame shook like an earthquake. His vampire teeth extended ready to close upon Oskar's vulnerable throat. Total consummation, a moment away.
'NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!' Eli let out a blood-curdling scream. The birds and squirrels and rabbits around their tree-house ran for cover. Eli flopped back, totally drained of energy and will to live a moment longer. In that moment he felt his true age, over 200 years desiccated into dust. 'Never. Only if you life was in danger.'
His extended fingernails ran over Oskar's tummy like a puppy being tickled. Oskar yelped with delight.
'You know what?' Oskar poked Eli in the ribs.
'You and me should form a death-metal band.'
'I am into serial murder, I collect press clippings. I strum guitar well. You growl. It's a winner.'
Eli pondered for a moment. 'You are mad. I may be a vampire, but I am not insane.'
Oskar smiled sweetly. 'Then you have nothing to lose.'
In very dark moments of quiet contemplation, Eli weighed up the consequences. He would deliver Oskar back to his Mama. That would be closure. Oskar needed a Mama. He could not be that. Oskar needed to find his own way out of his own personal Hell.
'Stick close by me today. I have an ill-feeling about this meet-up. Something in my blood. Intuition'
Oskar reflected. He turned to face his friend. 'Eli do you like me? Like, as in a boyfriend?'
Eli smiled. 'No. You snore too much.'
Oskar scratched his head, unsure. 'Do you love me?'
Eli smiled. 'More than words can ever say. For always.'
Oskar looked serious. 'But is that forever?'
Eli turned his face away.