2 Nov 2014
I was born in Borough and I have lived all my 21 years in this small town in Eastern Finland. I don’t know how it is to live in other places but I know a lot about Borough. I know the streets and the market square. The old shoe shops and super markets. The movie theatre, sports fields, the rail way station and the library. Our town has a big market square with outdoor coffee shops. The farmers of the region come every morning to the market place to sell spuds and bread. The town is an old one and there are some old fashion looking buildings in the centre.
I live in a suburb, in a block of flats with my mom. I don’t know much about my dad as it has always been just the two of us, me and my mom. She was never married to my father, who ever he might be. If I asked about my father she used to say: “It is not important, Pete. It is better for us with out him.”
My mom works as a cleaner in the local office of eGassem Corporation. Money in our small family has been short, but I was never really aware of it as a child, as I was happy and she tried her best to offer me experiences and fun time. We used to borrow adventure novels from the Town Library, go swimming and sauna to the public swimming hall, cycle to the market place on Saturday mornings.
And then there were friends. In our six store building, there were 42 apartments. At least half of the renters were families with kids. So I had 32 potential friends as my neighbours plus the other kids from the other houses of the street.
My best friend Otto was not living there, though. I met him when the school started, in the first school day. We were sitting in the last line of desks. The teacher was speaking and smiling. I saw this freckled boy putting his hand into his backpack and carefully pulling out a Biker Mice from Mars figure. It was Throttle. I opened my school backpack quietly and showed the guy that I had there one, too. He nodded. I got to know the boy’s name, Otto. After school days we used to cycle together to the corner of his home street. He was living in a new light blue wooden house, which had a big garden around the building. His mom was at home having maternity leave. Otto had a new baby sister. On the way, we used to stop for a while to explore ditches or build snow castles. Which we were not allowed to, since the rule was to cycle d-i-r-e-c-t-l-y to the set destination after school. When Otto went home, I continued my path to the afternoon club. But evenings, after my mom was home from eGassem, I could go out and meet Otto. I went to his house or he came to my home. Mostly it was he coming to us as it was easier to play some what noisy Biker Mice plays in my home.
Well, Otto’s home was a fine house! Everything was white and calm there. The rooms were huge. I think their living room was as big as my and my mom’s home altogether. And Otto had it all. All the possible toys, video’s and games you could dream of. And his father was brilliant. I adored this big smiling man who spoke loud and laughed loud. But he was seldom at home. Mostly, he was abroad for the work. Otto’s mom was much quieter. She had somehow sad smile like she was worrying something all the time. I saw her often standing in front of the window, staring to the garden. I think the most common thing I heard Otto’s mom saying was: “Hus, boys, the baby is sleeping.” Oh my, this baby girl is now 15, a crazy bitch! She is called Oona
19 Oct 2014
1. In the Midst of the Rivet Army
I was watching the crowd going on the rampage. System Of A Down stirred the spirit: “Why don’t presidents fight the war? Why do they always send the poor?”
I saw Otto pogoing like a lunatic in the midst of the crowd. I was wondering if mosh pit would start soon. I stepped back a bit. I’m a peaceful guy. I wouldn’t say I wasn’t enjoying - I was, I just tend to keep things in my mind more, than go wild publicly. That’s me. I am Pete. It was my twenty-first birthday. I was looking like anyone else there, dressed in a black leather jacket, jeans and t-shirt and boots. My hair is blond and I have let it grow long. I have grey blue eyes and I am pretty tall. I think I am okay. Well, I don’t see too well. But I wear glasses. And I saw her. A lady wearing a hat.
In addition to that festive hat decorated with flowers, she was wearing a black long dress. The upper part of the dress was all lace. Her brown hair was curling down on her left shoulder evenly. She had pearl jewellery around her dainty neck. She looked like she had stepped to this world from another world. From a poetic afternoon picnic or a steam train. She looked outstanding beautiful.
She shone in a crowd like an angel. The mass hysteria of all those guys-in-black, jumping up and down and raising theirs tattooed fists in the rhythm was milling around her. For a second I was wondering if she was dressed like a Victorian lady just to stand out of the crowd in the rock festival. But, I knew that this was not the case. Somehow I knew that she was not in any character.
It was obvious that the others did not see her at all. But I did and my heart was jumping like a jungle drum. I did not hear the music anymore. The moment felt like a dream, or like a slow-motion picture.
I saw her trying to find a way out from the crowd. She looked scared, but at the same time somehow purposeful. I saw a big man hitting her back with a massive elbow and she almost fell down. A knight in me finally woke up and I pushed me through the crowd to help her out from this boiling kettle. When I reached her to touch her back she turned around calmly and said: “Greetings, Pete Kaunomieli. Would you dance with me?”
The brightest sparkling eyes I ever had seen were staring at me firmly. She took me to a slow waltz and I put my hands around her. I felt warm shivers going through my body and I felt tears raising to my eyes. I don’t know why I felt so senselessly sad but happy at the same time. And I heard the music again, System of a Down was playing their “Lonely day”:
And if you go I wanna go with you
And if you die, I wanna die with you
I started to cry and the woman hugged me. “It’s alright now, Pete.” As she was comforting me.
So I was dancing waltz in the middle of the pogoing, rocking crowd with a lady like woman, who seems to be from another world. Or maybe we just stood there, I am not sure. Her closeness was everything, that I really sensed. I looked at her. She was about 30. She was beautiful in a rosy cheeks – kind of a way. She felt small, but she was as tall as I am. She stared back to me with her sparkling eyes. Why did I burst into tears when she touched me?
”Don’t you recognize me, Pete?” She asked. The sound of her voice is clear and still mysterious, like she would be whispering. It is like fairies speaking.
“No, Mam. I’m sorry, but I don’t know who you are.”
“You will, Pete, don’t worry. Let’s just dance this night away, since I have waited for this moment for a long, long time. Even if it was my last moment, I would feel complete now. Dance with me, like it was a first date. Do I scare you, Pete?” She asked.
To be honest, the whole situation was the oddest of all. It felt like a dream that you might see in high temperature. When you feel like levitating inside a circus caravan.
But I felt good. “Yes, let’s dance.” And so we danced. I liked her a lot. She felt like my woman. She just was so suitable. Older, maybe, but I never felt comfortable with the girls of my age. I was shy and I did not know how to speak with them. They seemed to be so much more interested in the Instagram selfies than anything else…well you know, things. Like the universe or fishing. With this woman I was talking about fishing and she sounded interested. “Tell me more,” she said. The sensual slow waltz kept us moving around the field.
When I finally raised my head, I noticed that it was just me and her in the field. I heard a clicking sound when the big lights of the festival area were closed one by one: “Hey there, get out now, thank you!” A guy was walking to our direction waving his hands.
“Oh, so late,” I mumbled and pulled her closer. I felt her breath. “Pete, we must go,” she said. “Thank you for the dance, dearest.”
“Shall I see you again?” I asked.
“I promise, you will. I must run now.”
I watched her starting to run to the gates and my eyes followed her body somehow fading away from the scenery.
“What’s your name?” I shouted after her.
“Ylva Uunilintu, My King,” she whispered from distance and I heard her voice right in my ear, then she was away.
Let me introduce me: my name is Ylva Uunilintu. I have wandered for a long time searching for my life. I walked on the hot stone pavements of a small village. I could smell the women of the village frying fish in their kitchens. The black- eyed men were sitting in small groups in front of the doors. The smoke of their cigar followed me. I could feel the burning eyes on my white dress. But none of them was the one who I was looking for.
I pushed my way ahead in the messy, noisy, smelling food market paths in Hong Kong. Above the shadowed alleys were the fine streets, fine cars, fine boutiques, bankers, attorneys, tourists, and the rest. I knew, that I would rather find him from the alleys than from the shiny streets. But he was not there either.
“Love of my life, you hurt me”. Freddie Mercury’s voice was beating my soul, my head and heart. These words were the only ones I had in my mind. I know, my dearest that I hurt you terribly.
Love of my life - you hurt me,
You’ve broken my heart and now you leave me.
Love of my life can’t you see,
Bring it back, bring it back,
Don’t take it away from me, because you don’t know, what it means to me. – Queen
I knew I was out of my mind when trying to search for him. After all, I had met him ages ago. A century ago. Or thousand and one night ago, I don’t know. Was it a dream or real? I don’t know anymore.
One morning I saw myself standing on a wild mountain. Surrounded by fog I stared down to a small mountain lake. Dark blue, so blue. I was remembering the moment when we talked about forever. We were full of promises then.
“I will be there for you forever no matter what,” Pete said hugging me.
“How long is forever?” I asked. Pete smiled.
“I would say eternity, My Pearl. I will always be there for you. I might even say that I will always love you. In time and space. Forever and anywhere. Till kingdom come.”
I remembered this and I whispered on the mountaintop that day: “Forever…” And the echo repeats “forever…forever…” And I shouted to the sky as loud as I can: ” I am sorry, Pete!”
I will tell you everything about it.
2. The vanished Manor
Next morning I woke up in the tent and heard it was raining. Otto was snoring and smelled like teen spirit. My eyes followed how a mosquito was placing on his arm and started to suck his blood.
He must have felt the insect injection as he opened his eyes and gave a good slap on his arm. Scratching himself he turned to me and said: “Man, what did you take last night?”
“Mmmm, what do you mean, I did not take anything, I never do as you very well know.” I said.
“Well, someone must have put something to your beer,“ Otto grinned. “C’mon Pete, don’t you remember? “He asked. “ I lost you when the mosh pit started. Great gig by the way, wasn’t it!? Well, later I found you sitting on the beach. I tried to talk to you but you did not react at all. I almost contacted the medical services. But there was an old lady sitting next to you. She said that you “two had been chatting about time and space travel”, what ever it means. And “you were practicing meditation, so I should not worry about you”. Then she said: “Teleport, Pete.” And you stood up,“ Otto continued.
”And suddenly she was gone. I was like what the heck is going on here. Teleport? Buddy? This is serious: is everything alright?”
“Yeah, yeah, I am fine. Yes, I met this woman and she taught me how to meditate, but to be honest, I think I just fell asleep,” I lied.
“Pete, I always have known that you are strange but, falling in sleep during Borough Rock Festival is too much.”
“Uh, forget, I said. I was really sleepy after the day on the sunny field. How old do you think the woman was? “
“I don’t know. Grown up. Like 30 something, “ he answered.
“Mmm, well I would not call her “old” then, but ok. I was just thinking about your definition for old, Otto,” I mumbled. Then I gave him something else to think about: “Damnation, I lost almost all of the concert!”
“You did, Pete. Wow, System of a Down was just great, Otto said smiling and started to tell about it. He jumped up playing air guitar and drums and singing (shouting) their “Toxicity”:
Between the sacred silence and sleep
Now I closed my eyes and turned my face towards my rucksack. At least partly my experience was real. Otto had seen Ylva, too. I was wondering if I had lost my mind or something. Well, then again, I don’t mind, if it feels like this, I thought. I could still feel her arms around me and I remembered the somehow complete feeling I had. The fact that I burst into tears during the Lonely day was so strange. I did not feel lonely at all then! Vice versa, it was like I had understood, how lonely I had been before, even though I had not felt loneliness earlier. But Ylva was like a missing piece of a puzzle found.
I did not hear from Ylva for a long time. And I could not get her out of my mind. I started to search for everything about “Ylva” on the Internet. I found out, that the name is one of the oldest female names in Scandinavia.
Etymology : Means "she-wolf", a derivative of Old Norse úlfr "wolf". http://www.first-names-meanings.com/names/name-YLVA.html So, Ylva is a she-wolf. I read about wolves on wolfworlds.com:
“Yet since the beginning of time the wolf has been found in stories that link them to evil…
The Indians though have a very different view on the wolf. They view this animal as one that has been sent to protect them. The power and courage of the wolves are traits that they want to have in their individuals. The community of the wolf pack is something they want to bring to their own tribe. This is why you will find that Indian ceremonies of early days often includes appreciation towards the wolf.
Early medicine men often carried the skins of the wolf along with them. Many of their supplies were wrapped up in them as a way to bring faster healing to those in need. Today the Eskimos of Alaska are very caring and considerate towards the wolf. They are respectful of their nomadic life.”
I understood, that this is not leading me anywhere. "My King", she had said. King Pete? King Kaunomieli? King of Rock Festival? I had no idea.
I dreamt about her every night. My dreams felt like pieces of memory. Sometimes they were crystal clear. In the middle of silent unconsciousness where I was slumbering, I suddenly might hear her laughing. Sometimes the dream was longer. We were then always quiet and walked hand by hand. I watched her hair moving softly in the wind. One night I heard her crying. I woke up sweating in a panic.
The summer was turning into early autumn and in the afternoons after classes I used to cycle to the library. I read old books and searched for articles about Victorian times in Finland from the archive.
And then I finally saw it! It was a register of aristocracy and heraldic symbols from 1800s. I saw a faded picture presenting The Family Uunilintu. The text said: “Lord of the Manor, Maximilian Uunilintu with his wife Anna Beaucoup-Joli and Baby-girl Ylva.”
I sat down to a bench with the book and took a deep breath. “What an earth is this?”, I asked from myself. I was so focused on the picture, that I did not notice a man sneaking behind my back.
"Police. Show your papers, son!" A man’s voice startled me. "Jesussss, man!" Don't sneak like that!” I yelled, which was followed right away by the librarian's tight "Hush!"
He was Kaarlo Kutterinpuru, mom's brother. Kutterinpuru sat down next to me grinning and pulled my book to his side to see what I was reading. "Ah, Uunilintu. Good Lad, interested in history and all. Are you searching for information for an essay?" he asked. “Ask anything from your Uncle, son, I'm your expert and your saviour, I know every story about the mansions here".
Yeah, he was known for his local history knowledge. I had read his articles from the local paper for a few times. About the ancient rock paintings or such.
Kutterinpuru looks like an ordinary middle - aged man from Borough in his not-so-trendy jeans and shirt. His thick short brown hair is always somewhat messy and his skin is pretty dark, as he spends much of his time fishing on the lake. The smell of the lake and fresh fish on his skin is mixing with wood and the smoke of the fireplace. I would not call him comely as he has a big potato formed nose, big ears and small staring eyes. But he likely is hunky in the eyes of women. And if you look at his eyes, you see sparkle and ever lasting warmth in them. You see intelligence and empathy. He did not have diplomas, but still he was a man who I reckon to be a real lettered humanist, a thinker or something like.
“Hmm, well I just noticed this book telling about our region. So, what about Uunilintu, are they famous?” I asked.
“They were your grandpa’s father’s neighbours. Old Graf Gutterburg was the man who established the Gutterburg Sawmill. You know, our name was earlier Gutterburg, but it was changed to sound more Finnish Kutterinpuru in the end of the 1800s in the whirlwind of nationalism. My house is still on the old Gutterburg lands. But something happened to the Uunilintu mansion,” Uncle told.
“Well, hard to say as there is not much real evidence. But I saw an old newspaper article on that. One stormy night a lightning burned the building. And the whole house was gone, it vanished totally. Only the stone founding was still there. But only the house was gone, the yard and fields and all the surroundings looked untouched. Like they never had lived there,” He told.
I felt my hair raising. “Fire. What about the people? What happened to them?” I asked. I stared at the photo of the book.
“No-one knows. Graf Gutterburg, became almost wordless that very same night. It is told, that after the storm, he never spoke. He only whistled. Some same tune, over and over again. Imagine, Pete. The wrinkled old man, sitting on his swing chair, staring and whistling. That’s your ancestor, Pete.
“Mmm…is there anything about our family in these books?” I asked. “Not much, Pete”, my uncle said. “Only the highest aristocrats were worth reporting, I guess…But I have found pretty much from the old Books of The Death. I did not know you would be interested in history! I like it, Pete, Kutterinpuru grinned. Have you heard about the history of our family? Let me tell you.” And he told:
“Our family has been living in the region for a long time. My great grandpa's have been serving the ancient Finnish Kings as well as both the Russian Tsars and The Swedish Kings. They served them well, in good and bad. Gutterburg Land has belonged to our family for ages. Of course, the building has been rebuilt many times during the centuries, but we have always lived there, on the shore of Iron Lake. From the beginning of all times, maybe”. And he continued:
“Listen to this, Pete. Our ancestor, Graf Gutterburg is told to have been a follower of some secret cult. The sign of the cult was Black Amber Horn. And, his manor was famous of being mysterious. It was very dark, looked like wet dark ice blocks through sunrays. This has been described in an old poem.”
“You see, Pete, songs and poems have been the only way to tell stories before writing. My father told these words to me, ” Kaarlo Kutterinpuru said standing up and taking a ceremonial pose he continued:
False knight, fire night
God of Thunder
Whistling Gutterburg never says a word more
But where is little Ylva?
The librarian hushed irritably. Kutterinpuru blinked his eye on her. “Speaking of Gutterburg Manor, Pete, when will you come fishing with me? I can tell you more on the lake, “he asked.
And so I travelled there next Friday afternoon by bus.
“These stones are what is left from the old residence of our forefathers, Pete," Kutterinpuru said. We were standing deep in the forest a few hundred meters from Kutterinpuru’s house. I watched the grassy meadow and yes, there was an old stone wall embedded into the ground. The place was hiding under large old pine woods. It was shady, but sun rays let a beautiful light through the trees.
"Watch out, Pete! Do you see the adder next to your right feet. Don’t step on it or it will bite," Kutterinpuru whispered. I don’t know why he started to speak silent, but I yelled: "Oh shit!" The snake lingered inside the stonewall. I turned back, blundered around and the buckle of my left boot stack to a twig. I fell down and slipped into a small pit.
And I saw more of them. It was at least twenty snakes moving slowly near us, all of them getting inside the stones slowly. There must be a good cave. “Holy shit!” I cursed.
“Pete, just don’t move now. One is almost on your shoulder, let it go away.” I was scared stiff and did not breath for a moment. I felt the snake crawling over my neck.
"It’s a nest," Kutterinpuru said and helped me to get up. "Better, that we go back." I watched carefully every step I took. And I was glad when we got back to the forest path.
Later we were having tea in the Fishing Hut down on the Iron Lake shore. The hut is a small log house with one room and a sauna. There is a fireplace, a bed, a cabin and a tiny kitchen corner. Old worn wood table with four stools was placed next to the window, where from you could watch to the lake and follow the loons diving. It is a cosy and warm hut. It was like the room was keeping the summer inside even though it was turning to an autumn already outside. The hut is surrounded by wood terraces, which are furnished with long simple benches, placed next to the walls. Fishing nets, traps and rods were decorating the outside walls of the hut.
Kutterinpuru told, that there might be tens or even hundreds of snakes in one nest. They gather near their den before they settle down for winter. Now, it is their time to have hatchlings. Adders are poisonous, but garden snakes are harmless, he told me.
And he told me an oddest story about garden snakes. Traditionally garden snakes or “manor snakes” have been considered as holy creatures and opponents of Evil. In the old days, women used to feed them with milk. The snakes were slithering freely around the people. He said that some people especially in the Southern Forests have worshipped and took care of the holy snakes even in the last century.
"As you know, there are a few fine easy-going grass snakes living in my garden," Kutterinpuru told me. “It was a mysterious moment, when they came, Pete. It was March 1968 and I had a fever. I think it was the Hong Kong flu since I really was a sick man then. I had been ice fishing for a few hours when the sickness got me. I was pretty far away from the shore and the temperature raised quickly. I managed to get back to the shore.
It started to snow heavily and I had to find some shelter. I was too weak to keep on walking, so I just crawled to a rock cave. It was freezing cold. I was sweating and shivering at the same time. I thought I was hallucinating since I saw and felt snakes coming and covering me all over. My Lord, I was terrified at first. I think I was whimpering and perhaps fainted. And yet, Pete, later I somehow felt that they were friendly. I felt them taking care of me! If I was sweating, they wiped the sweat away, if I was shivering, they came closer. So I survived. I think they were hibernating, but woke up when I came. When I opened my eyes I felt much better. But I at first I was too scared to myself. I saw all those snakes. With a closer look, I could see the yellow spots on the head of most of them. They were harmless grass snakes. I got up and stepped out. I was weak, of course but at least I could walk home. When I left for home, two snakes followed me and ever since, the snakes have been living with me.”
I had never heard something like this. If I had not met a woman from another world recently myself, I maybe would have not believed a word Kutterinpuru told. But, I had stepped in to a new world, where anything seems to be possible.
After the tea, when Kutterinpuru put his feet up, I opened my iPad and googled “ grass snakes in Finland”. First I found lots of basic information but then something more interesting jumped to my eyes. The article was about an old tradition in Finland, Sweden and the Baltic States to have grass snakes as sacred “manor snakes”.
I googled further and read about the ancient religions of the Nordic and Baltic countries. It turned out that the Lithuanians worshipped grass snakes as sacred animals of Sun God Saule. I learned that in the old days it was common to believe, that treating a grass snake badly would harm the people or cattle of the house. And, on the other hand, when treated well, a loyal king of the grass snakes would come to help their human family whenever needed.
Kutterinpuru said: “Yep, Pete, I told you. The grass snakes are important deities. The hate for the snakes started, because Christianity introduced the idea of a snake being the tool of Devil. But, that’s another story.”
I also read an article about the “Socioeconomic Consequences of the Internet”. It was about eGassem Corporation and how they could take advantage of all the private information they have collected on their users for years. The topic has had been a popular talking point for all the summer. eGassem Corporation became a sensation in one night after having bought the leading social media site Caselook, just like that. “Who is eGassem?” People were asking. But finding the real ownership behind eGassem turned out to be a difficult task. It was owned by a few companies, who were owned by a few companies and so on. In the end of the chain, were just blurry hints to Near East.
Your hub is not only yours
After buying Caselook, eGassem Corporation is now behind all your social media services. Your social media hub may be formed of WhatsApp, Netflix, Instagram, Google +, Caselook and Facebook. Or your hub may contain a bit different selection of sites. Nevertheless, all these sites are monitored by Caselook Hub Technology. And the most of us have accepted this monitoring, by giving one service the right to use our site contents for easy sharing. eGassem is now sitting on a huge amount of information on you and your friends, fellow workers, school mates, children, parents, ex-wives, secret lovers, politicians, terrorists. eGassem has information on everything.
There is nothing new in the fact that someone has lots of information on the Internet users, just think about the case Snowden. But, it is a new situation, that no- one seems to know who this Big Brother is. Who is eGassem and what is their aim?
Who cares who they are, when they are so good? I was a heavy user of eGassem services, just like anyone I knew.
3. False Knight, Fire night
Anna and Graf
Graf Gutterburg watched Anna’s beautiful neck. She was braiding her long hair. The pale neck was decorated with an amber pendant. The only thing she was wearing was a light bone colour corset.
Anna Uunilintu was staring out of the window of her bedroom. Gutterburg stood behind her, and reached his hands around her.
“Anna, My Pearl. I love you, you know that.” Gutterburg said.
She leaned on the dark haired big man.
“Graf, I wish we did not have to hide like this. You are burning me like fire. I have the constant longing for you, and look at me, I should be shamed of me, but I am not. I am cursed, gone.” Anna said turning around.
“I should be terrified for what I am doing, but yet I am just happy for this opportunity to have you around, “ she whispered and continued: ” Maximilian is in Viapori. As you know, there has been bombardment with severe damage. The Imperial Guard of the Grand Duchy is keeping order there now. Oh, I hope he is safe, anyway.”
Gutterburg put his hand on Anna’s leg and fingered the lacy hem of the corset. He did not say anything, he just bended over Anna and started to kiss her neck.
“Anna,” he then mumbled,” Perhaps we shall burn in Hell, but I wish we could forget him for this moment. I will never regret this.”
Gutterburg was thinking about Lieutenant Maximilian Uunilintu. Yes, he did care of him after all. A bit. Maximilian Uunilintu had been his neighbour for all his life. They knew each other from their childhood. Max was his best pal for a long time. They went to the University together and shared a room in the campus. After the University, Graf returned back home to Savo, to the land of forests and lakes. He established a mill and worked hard for it. Maximilian joined the Finnish division of the Imperial Guard and stayed in Viaborg. “He became just an elitist dandy, ”Gutterburg thought.
Max came home after a few years. His father had arranged his marriage with Anna Beaucoup-Joli, the daughter of a wealthy French merchant. She was a graceful young lady, but Maximilian did not care about her. He was more interested in the fellow officers’ company and the hookers of Helsinki satisfied his needs. He left Anna alone for long times. She entertained herself by studying Finnish language and playing piano.
The days of Anna were peaceful. Sometimes she got visitors. Maximilian’s parents or Pastor Doomsday or some of the spinsters of the other mansions came for afternoon tea. Anna also had a neighbour, Graf Gutterburg, but he did not much show up. “Gutterburg is mysterious,” the spinsters whispered. “What do you mean with mysterious?” Anna asked.
“Well, his manor is so strange. You must have seen it, Anna. The house is so dark, but yet somehow glowing. It looks scary! And the lord then, is not he odd? He never goes to the church. People say that he is a pagan.” The spinster whispered the last word in a very quiet voice and made sign of a cross.
Anna saw Graf Gutterburg on the road then and again. He was always polite and not scary at all. He had sparkling eyes, dark thick hair and a body of an energetic man who stays outdoors a lot. Every time Anna met her neighbour he asked if she needed any help. “I wish my husband was alike Graf Gutterburg,” Anna thought.
But no, her husband never asked anything from Anna. When he came home, he always had a troupe of friends and minions with him. They were noisy and cocky. They got bored to the countryside quickly and thus they stayed only for a few days at a time.
They organized dinners and proms at Uunilintu manor, which anyway made Anna glad. She had a chance to hear the latest rumours and chat about politics and books. Sometimes his husband’s friends asked why would not Anna join them to the city. But, Maximilian rushed to hush them: “No, no, it is better that Anna stays here in the countryside.” Maximilian hardly talked to his wife and their sexual intercourse was just an insensitive act. He wished he would have a son one day. And so Anna was staying mostly alone in the Manor. She nourished roses in the garden and played her piano.
One warm summer evening, Anna was playing and singing in the salon, in front of an open window. It was a beautiful old French chanson. Graf Gutterburg was standing on the yard. He watched Anna playing, her eyes were closed and the lovely figure was moving dreamy with the music. Her low-voiced tone was smooth and delicious. Gutterburg saw a small pearl of sweat trickling from her neck downwards to her chest. He wanted to taste the pearl.
“I did not know, that you are such a chanteuse, Ma’am.” Gutterburg said as the music stopped.
Anna raised her head calmly and met his eyes. “Oh, I hope you liked it, Graf Gutterburg. What brings You to Uunilintu mansion?” She asked.
"I was fixing the fence behind the hill as I heard your singing, Anna Uunilintu. To be honest, I have heard it many times, and I always wanted to come over to hear it better. It took this long to get the guts to walk here." Gutterburg told.
"Sir, I play a lot during my lonely evenings." Anna said.
"You should not be so much alone here. I was thinking that so many times." The man said.
"Oh, well, that may be so, but by now, I am already used to that. I have my Ylva and I have grown roots to these hills and valleys. I feel fine here at Uunilintus. But, I am still glad you have come, My Neighbour. Would you like to have a nice cup of tea, sir?"
"Just call me Graf, Ma’am. And yes, thank you for your offer."
Anna went to a door and called a maid: “Birgitta! Come here please.” An old housekeeper came to the door. ”Birgitta, bring us tea to the library, please.” Anna asked and the woman nodded: “Yes, Lady Anna.”
Anna and Graf went to the library. The room was small and homey. Can you see it? Bookshelves, a sofa, chairs and a coffee table. A desk with letters on it. Lamps, carpets, furs, a clock tick-tack. Fireplace, flowers, wind in the curtains. Beautiful singing of a blackbird fills the room from an open window. The two, still almost strangers sat on the sofa and kept quiet until Birgitta brought the samovar and arranged cups and cakes. When she left they started to talk. First shyly and with caution and later open minded and enjoying of each others words and company. In some point of the darkening evening and the blackbird still singing, Graf Gutterburg raised his hand to Anna’s hair and opened her braid. Their kiss started a real love story. A secret one, of course.
The birth of their daughter Ylva was a great joy for Anna. Maximilian of course believed that the baby was his child, but he was disappointed, as she was a girl. He came to see the girl shortly. “Useless”, he thought.
The people of the crofts of the Uunilintu mansion saw the lady of the house and her little princess enjoying the sunny days on the fields many times. Anna was reading or dreaming, the baby girl was babbling on the blanket next to her mother. Ylva won the hearts of the crofters. She was such a sweetheart, smiling and waving to everyone. She played with the crofters children, even thought his father did not like this at all. Of course, nobody said anything out loud, but everyone knew who the father really is. It was an unspoken secret of the Manor. And so the beautiful, painfully secret story of Lady Anna and Graf Gutterburg continued until it was ended in a terrible way.
In the beginning Anna and Graf had been extremely careful. No one would know about the relationship. But, the more time they spent together, the more confident they became. They were so happy that they stopped caring about what others think. They enjoyed the sunny days on the fields and the beach, the two and the little Ylva. At nights when Ylva was sleeping downstairs in her bedroom next to Birgitta’s room, the lovers made their way upstairs to Anna’s bed and to each other’s arms before Graf headed back to the neighboring house.
Birgitta the Maid did not like it, not at all. “Sinners.” She whispered spitting behind the bedroom door. “Sinners.” She whispered to the maids on the market square. “Sinners.” She whispered to the priest on Sunday. The priest telegrammed to Maximilian: “Honourable Sir, better to come home to solve the rumour about your wife and Gutterburg.”
Maximilian left for countryside right away. It was not that he would care about Anna, but it was a question of honour. Graf Gutterburg as his wife’s lover! “Never more”, Maximilian swore. It was a late stormy night when he came. He saw candlelight in Anna’s bedroom in the second floor of the manor. He locked both the outdoors from the outside and lit the fire. The screaming of the two women, Anna and Birgitta was terrible to hear. Maximilian sat under a tree nearby the burning house and kept his ears. He did not hear the sound of the breaking glass of Ylva’s bedroom. But he saw something strange. A small creature was running to the forest from the house carrying his child. And this was the last thing he saw, as a lightning hit the tree and he died in a second.
The wooden manor was burnt totally when the crofters and villagers reached the place. There was nothing left. The storm continued howling for two days sweeping away the last signs of the manor. After it, the place looked peaceful. A blackbird was singing and the sunrays shone to a square, that just a few days ago was the yard. Now it was empty, with just a few fallen trees on the ground. Like there never had been a house.
4. But where is Little Ylva?
I remember the fire. I heard the breaking glass and the next thing I understood was that I we were running. Well, someone was running carrying me. I saw the house burning behind us and I heard that my carrier was breathing heavily. No wonder as she was almost as small like me. As soon as we were in the corner of the garden, we stopped and she put me down, but she forced me to follow her and we continued running, me next to her like a rag doll. This is how I came to the tiny people’s village, to Elfin. But I just can’t remember much more about it. I was just a child then and memories about it all come and go. I don’t know if I was crying after my mom. I don’t know how long I stayed with my saviour. Well, I did not know then that they were my saviours. Now that I think about it I am sure they have given me some potion to keep me calm and forget about the past.
Maybe it was some point in my development, when I started to form lasting memories. I think I was about six years old. I recollect the sunny spring days and hens pecking seeds from the melting yard. I recall pigs grunting. The melting snow made small water springs to the sand and I was playing on the yard. I was nurturing cones which I imagined to be my lambs. Forever was dozing in the sun next to me as always. Forever was my dog and my best friend. It must have been a morning as I heard Meya calling for me: “ Porridge, Ylva, come quick or I eat it all!” and I heard her laughing.
I went into the cottage. It was a round building in the forest. Inside the house everything was neat and comfortable. The fireplace, kitchen corner and table and chairs on the other side, and bed and cabin on the other side. The porridge serving was waiting for me on the table. Meya was baking. Nothing new with that, as this is what she does: goes picking berries or roots, takes care of the kitchen garden, cleans the house as a lunatic, cooks, bakes, makes honey, bottles cider and laughs a lot doing this all. She does not speak too much, but when she says something to me, it is always something important. Her voice sounds like it really is made more for laughing than speaking. The sound of her laugher is tittering and snickering, often growing to a resounding explosion. The voice as she speaks is more like whispering, the ends of the sentences tend to raise.
Meya is a small one, a dwarf. She is round like a mushroom ball or a turnip. I don’t know her age, but as I think of her as my mom, she must be of suitable age then. Her legs are short and yet the belly and bosom are big. She is using a flax dress and a pinafore like we all are. Meya’s hair is almost always under a green bonnet. When she works in the garden, she looks like a stone in the meadow. We all could hide ourselves well and sometimes it is even needed.
Sometimes we hear the watchbirds whistling the warning song. This means that we all, the whole village stop immediately what we are doing and jump under the nearest bush and cover our faces and just keep quiet. Then we may hear someone riding horseback nearby. Meya said, that if the visitors are people, it is not so much a problem. The tall ones do not much like the tiny people, but they are not our enemies, she told to me. “Amber hunters, Ylva, you must understand this, Amber hunters are the bad ones, ” Meya whispered. Notwithstanding of the fear of Amber Hunters the life in Elfin was sweet for a little girl. Meya taught me everything she knew about herbs and animals. I had friends in the village and we played on the flower meadows after the day’s tasks. Evenings, we used to dance around the fire when the men played beautiful harmony or pipe music. The songs of the Elfin village were full of dreams and stories. The sounds were round and clear, peaceful and joyful, or sometimes almost sad.
I grew up taller than anyone else in the village. And when I grew and grew, I started to feel me so different from the others. I did not understand it. Meya told me not to worry about it. “Sometimes there are anomalies,” she just said. But I started to feel me clumsy when dancing with my friends in the fairy ring or around the fire. I saw the other girls being so soft and round and tiny. They were so pretty when waltzing on the flower meadows. I was thin but tall. Twice their size. Sometimes I just stayed sitting on the ground and watch them playing. I started to bring flower wreaths to the sacred stone and pray for God Thunder, who is the strongest of gods to not to let me grow more. In my heart, I started to feel lonely.
One afternoon, in the end of a summer, Meya was sitting up on the top of an apple tree and shaking the branches. I was picking the fallen apples from the ground. We would make jelly. Suddenly we heard the sounds of the loon warrior from the lake. http://www.lintukuva.fi/lajikuvat/gavarc/
Meya told me to jump to a bush and be quiet to. A rider entered the apple garden in a couple of minutes. He was a dark haired man, dressed in a leather coat and having a wolf fur hat on his head. He looked dangerous. I felt the wolf’s eyes staring at me. I saw the mouth of the wolf opening a bit. I was quiet as a mouse behind bushes.
The man and the horse stopped in the centre of the garden and he looked around. He dismounted and I heard him whispering “Meya!” This was something very strange. I had never before heard a tall man speaking. “Meya, I know that you are there in the tree. Come down and talk to me,” the man continued. Meya lurked from one side to another and dismounted from the tree clumsy. She landed on her round bum. After getting herself up and putting her cap straight she waddled towards the man.
“ Greetings, Lord Gutterburg?” Meya said and dropped a curtsy looking worried.
“Meya, I know that you have been a good mother to the girl, but soon it is time for me to take the girl to the Manor. She is growing fast. She is now already twice your size. Soon you would need to build a bigger house for her. And, I have to start to teach her. About…everything. As you know.”
“Lord Gutterburg? Are you sure that you are ready now? The girl is happy here. I will not give her into a house of constant sorrow?” Meya whispered.
The man sighed. “Ah, Meya. My mood will never be like before. My heart is broken as I lost Anna. But, I can handle the issue now. A few years that I spent abroad whipped away the worst wounds. Now I have settled back in the manor and established a sawmill. And I have realised that I still have Anna’s daughter to care about. My daughter. And this is what I want to do, to take care about her. And anyway…I must prepare her. ”
This sounded so mysterious. I had no idea what all they were talking about, but I understood that he wanted to take me away from home.
“Today is her 13th birthday. I will come to take her to the Manor Gutterburg next spring.” The man said. “Can I meet her now?” He asked.
Meya looked lost. After a minute’s quietness, when she and the man were staring at each other, she whispered: “Ylva, sweetheart, come here to meet someone.” I pushed away the branches of the bushes and stepped next to Meya. My heart was beating. I had never before seen a tall person so near. He was much taller than me, a strong looking man. I stared to the ground and felt me painfully shy.
The man looked me for a long time and finally said: “Look at me, Ylva. Do you remember anything about the days on the field of the Mason, or the evenings when Anna was playing piano, when you were about to sleep?” He asked.
“No.” I managed to whisper.
The man stepped closer and touched my hair. He gave a stroke to my chin. For my surprise I saw a tear drop in his eye. “ Don’t be afraid, Ylva. I am your father and I love you very much. I have to travel for this winter, but I will come to get you home in six months.” He looked at Meya and said: “ She is just like Anna.”
“Yes, Lord Gutterburg. She is just like Anna. Maybe this is the right thing to do. My heart will break but what else can we do?” Meya said giving a sniff.
“ Don’t worry, Meya. You will not loose her totally, you can move to the manor with her.”
“Thank you, Lord, but I cannot leave Elfin. Maybe I shall visit her from time to time.” Meya said. And the man, mounting on his horse, said: “Very well, Meya. Keep her safe, now, will you. I have heard, that the Amber Hunters are heading to Southern Forests again. They must not find her. Take care, you both.”
Meya and me watched him riding away. I turned to Meya and she said: “ Ylva, my flower, I have a lot to tell to you. I am sorry for not telling all this before, even though I have seen that you are sad about being different. But, I was just so scared about loosing you. Forgive me.”